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The Council of Europe has published the outcome of the High Level Conference on the Future of the Europe Court of Human Rights - The Brighton declaration - which will lead eventually to some important changes. The declaration merits full reading before a full analysis can be properly attempted. At first glance, the changes appear to be few in the short term but it seems likely that this declaration will eventually be seen as just the starting point for fundamental reforms. Some basic points may be stated:
This area is potentially very far-reaching and signals the intention that Brighton will be just a start to reforms. Phrases appear such as - "It may be necessary to evaluate the fundamental role and nature of the Court to ensure the viability of the court's key role in the system for protecting and promoting human rights in Europe." In response to more effective implementation at national level, the court should be in a position to focus its efforts on serious or widespread violations, systemic and structural problems, and important questions of interpretation and application of the convention.
The declaration mandates the Committee of Ministers to carry our a comprehensive analysis of potential options for the future role of the court, including analysis of how the convention system in essentially its current form could be preserved, and consideration of more profound changes to how applications are resolved by the Convention system with the aim of reducing the number of cases that have to be addressed by the court. The declaration requires this work to be done by the end of 2015.
It may be that the British government has not secured some of the more detailed proposals which were first mooted in the original draft declaration. However, the convention system has undoubtedly been given a strong steer to face a direction in which, over time, more should be done at national level to make the convention effective whilst the court becomes more focussed on serious violations etc. A lot of work remains to be done but the Brighton Declaration contains a clear timetable for that work.
Addendum 21st April: Law Society Gazette - "Brighton: we never sought seismic change, says Grieve."
Addendum 23rd April: UK Human Rights blog commentary on the declaration:
The Brighton declaration and the meddling court (Dr. Ed Bates) and "Brighton rock: Abu Qatada and the democratic deficit - the Human Rights roundup"
Addendum 30th April: Garden Court North Chambers - barrister Kate Stone's Reflections on the Brighton Declaration