“Interlaken Declaration” Addresses ECtHR Reform

On February 18th and 19th, ministers representing 47 nations from the Council of Europe convened in Interlaken, Switzerland to address the need for urgent reforms to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The resulting Interlaken Declaration now sets in motion a process for developing future reforms and the continued existence of the ECtHR.

The Declaration comes in response to a heavily overburdened ECtHR. There are approximately 120,000 outstanding cases, with an estimated ninety percent being “clearly inadmissible or having no legal basis,” according to the Council of Europe. Addressing a desperate situation, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland announced that, “We will save the Court because we have no other choice. People in Europe deserve no less and will get no less.”

The Interlaken Conference continues a process of ECtHR reform begun in 2001. Protocol 14, which calls for long-term efficiency within the ECtHR, was proposed then but was long went unratified. On Thursday, February 18, immediately before the opening of the Ministerial Conference, the Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov deposited the ratification instrument. Protocol 14 will therefore enter into force on June 1, 2010, paving the way for court reform.

The Interlaken Declaration called on member states in consultation with civil society to produce specific proposals for reform by June 2012, and for a fuller implementation of the “subsidiarity principle,” which recognizes the primary role of national governments in implementing ECtHR decisions.

The Declaration comes during Switzerland’s sixth-month term as President of the Council of Europe.

For more information, see here.