Thursday, 28 June 2012

Newly "elected" judges at Strasbourg

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has elected new judges to the European Court of Human Rights.  The new judges come from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.  See Parliamentary Assembly announcement.  The appointees take up their judicial duties on 1st November 2012.

Three candidates were put forward from the United Kingdom - Raquel Agnello QC, Benedict Emmerson QC and Paul Mahoney.  Mr Mahoney was elected with 83 votes.  Mr Emmerson obtained 48 votes and Ms Agnello 27.

If this process is compared to a race, Mr Emmerson was "front-runner" as far as the legal profession was concerned and Mr Mahoney was the "outsider."

There are somewhat worrying signs that politics played more than a minor role in the whole process - see Joshua Rozenberg's article in The Guardian 27th June - "Politics trumps merit."  As ever, Mr Rozenberg's article merits serious consideration.  See also The Guardian 27th June - Owen Bowcott - where it is said that the appointment of Mr Mahoney followed a "Tory attack on his rival."  Whether true or false, the emerging picture fails to give one confidence in the process.

I do not propose to comment
one way or the other about the merits of the candidates but one of the problems with this form of political involvement in the selection process is that it lacks transparency and smacks of wheeling and dealing in back rooms.  No doubt, we will never know who said what to whom and what "pressures" (if any) were brought to bear as part of this wholly unsatisfactory process.

A further twist to all this was the fact that British MPs and Peers secretly interviewed the candidates - The Guardian 23rd May.

A list of the current judges of the European Court of Human Rights is available on the court's website.

~ The European Convention on Human Rights - Judges and their election ~

Criteria for office
1. The judges shall be of high moral character and must either possess the qualifications required for appointment to high judicial office or be jurisconsults of recognised competence.
2. The judges shall sit on the Court in their individual capacity.
3. During their term of office the judges shall not engage in any activity which is incompatible with their independence, impartiality or with the demands of a full-time office; all questions arising from the application of this paragraph shall be decided by the Court.

Election of judges
The judges shall be elected by the Parliamentary Assembly with respect to each High Contracting Party by a majority of votes cast from a list of three candidates nominated by the High Contracting Party.

Terms of office and dismissal
1. The judges shall be elected for a period of nine years. They may not be re-elected.
2. The terms of office of judges shall expire when they reach the age of 70.
3. The judges shall hold office until replaced. They shall, however, continue to deal with such cases as they already have under consideration.
4. No judge may be dismissed from office unless the other judges decide by a majority of two-thirds that that judge has ceased to fulfil the required conditions.

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