According to the Council of Europe’s own website “The [ECHR] currently faces a desperate situation. There are more than 100 000 outstanding cases. Ninety percent of the applications to the Court are clearly inadmissible or have no legal basis, which reveals a serious ignorance of the Convention and the Court’s procedures. It also shows that the Convention system needs to be revitalised by a more rigorous application of the subsidiarity principle, and to be enforced in domestic courts.”
The need for reform was already clear by 2001, which lead to the drafting of Protocol 14 (CETS no.194). However, sluggish ratification meant that by 2009 a compromise was called for : the Agreement of Madrid (aka Protocol 14bis) allowed for provisional application of some the Protocol’s provisions before the requirements for it fully to enter into force had been achieved. Learning from experience- only 3 ratifications were required for Protocol 14bis to enter into force so this was achieved within the year – but so far only 9 states have fully acceded to it. It is due to lapse in June 2010 when Protocol 14 should be in force.
This February the Swiss Chairman of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers whipped in ministers from all 47 states to a Conference at Interlarken. The Conference was “constructive” and “fruitful” – unsurprisingly reform was universally endorsed as a good and necessary thing. The fruit was the Interlaken Declaration which is – we are assured – “not limited to a merely political declaration of intent, but suggests more concrete measures”. (Press Release) Let us hope really tangible improvements will start within this decade.
On the 18 February, the Russian Federation deposited its ratification of Protocol 14 so perhaps we should not be too despondent.