On 31 August 2011, some 160 200 cases were pending before the European Court of Human Rights. The explosive growth of litigation in the last ten years is due not only to the accession of new Council of Europe member states but also to a massive inflow of individual applications from both old and new member states. This situation poses a threat to the effective functioning of the Court. If it is to fulfil its essential functions, the processing of cases that are manifestly inadmissible or purely repetitive must be speeded up as a matter of urgency.
The reform of the Court, begun back in 2001, was the subject of a new protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, Protocol No. 14. This was opened for signature in 2004 and entered into force on 1 June 2010. Its purpose is to guarantee the long-term efficiency of the Court by optimising the screening and processing of applications. It envisages, among other measures, the creation of new judicial formations for the simplest cases, a new admissibility criterion (the existence of ''significant disadvantage'') and introduces a nine-year non-renewable term of office for judges.
Pending the final ratification that will allow the instrument to come into force and in order to provide a temporary but quick solution to the Court's excessive caseload, a new Protocol No. 14bis was adopted in May 2009 during the session of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in Madrid. This protocol contained procedural measures taken from Protocol No.14 to increase the Court’s case-processing capacity as rapidly as possible. This text ceased to be in force or applied on a provisional basis as from 1 June 2010, date of entry into force of Protocol No. 14 to the Convention.
Ministers and senior representatives from the Council of Europe's 47 member countries gathered in Brighton from 18 to 20 April to discuss possible reforms to the European Court of Human Rights.
UK Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, formally opened the conference, followed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, the President of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Jean-Claude Mignon, and the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza. (more...)
Council of Europe conference adopts the ''Izmir Declaration'' on the future of the European Court of Human Rights
The high-level conference organised on 26 and 27 April 2011 in Izmir by the Turkish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers concluded its work with the adoption of the ''Izmir Declaration'' on the future of the European Court of Human Rights. The Conference aimed at following up and maintaining the momentum of the process of reform of the supervisory machinery set up by the European Convention on Human Rights, process launched by the Interlaken Conference.
18-19 February 2010: Interlaken Conference on the future of the Court
A conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights was organised by Switzerland in February 2010 in Interlaken, during the Swiss Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The purpose of the conference was to reaffirm States' commitment to the protection of human rights in Europe and to draw up a roadmap for the future development of the Court.