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Home / News-archive / Reform of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

Reform of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

European Court of Human Rights Court room

On 1 June 2010 Protocol No.14 to the European Convention on Human Rights entered into force, six years after its adoption by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. Its aim is to amend the control system of the Convention so as to improve the efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

In order to reduce the Court’s workload by improving the efficiency of its procedures, Protocol No.14 provides for some key measures:

  • reinforcement of the Court’s capacity to filter out clearly inadmissible applications,

  • introduction of a new admissibility criterion under Article 35 - ''significant disadvantage'' - limiting applications from individuals who have not suffered “significant disadvantage”. However, the following caveats apply:

    • The Court does not reject cases where respect for human rights requires examination of the application on its merits,

    • The Court does not reject cases that have not been fully considered by a domestic tribunal,

  • provisions for dealing with repetitive cases (that account for around 60% of the judgments), in particular promotion of friendly settlements at an early stage of the proceedings.

The amendments entail new competences of single judges for preliminary decisions on admissibility, and committees of three judges for repetitive cases, to allow to process cases faster. Protocol No.14 strengthens also the CEuropean court of human rightsommittee of Ministers role in supervising the execution of the judgments. The Committee of Ministers can now bring proceedings before the Grand Chamber for the Court against a Member State, which refuses to comply with the Court’s final judgment. Protocol No. 14 also empowers the Council of Europe’s European Commissioner for Human Rights – the Convention’s diplomatic institution – to submit written comments, and to participate in Chamber and Grand Chamber hearings. The Commissioner cannot, however, initiate litigation. These new provisions can be applied immediately to all pending applications. Finally Protocol No.14 contains the opportunity of the EU to accede to the Convention: it would be a big step in order to create a European fundamental rights area. Certainly Protocol No.14 includes many positive aspects, which should enable the European Court to focus on those cases that affect important human rights issues. Nevertheless, among the implications of these new admissibility measures, there may be a potential a risk to restrict the right of individual petition. For this reason the Convention machinery needs further reform. In the last Ministerial Conference, held in February 2010 in Interlaken (Switzerland), the European state parties adopted an Action Plan with short and middle-term measures regarding, in particular, the implementation of the Convention at the national level. During the next five years, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers will have to evaluate the European Court’s improvements and to decide whether more important steps are necessary to guarantee its long-term effectiveness.


Kundai Sithole, Unversity of Reading, UK, and Laura Roscio, CSF, Italy, for IDW


Reference links〈=en

The ECHR as amended by the new Protocol 14


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