To get what they want in the Council of Europe, British politicians are willing to sell human rights protections down the river across Europe - warns Amnesty International
This week, ambassadors from the 47 member states of the Council of Europe are meeting behind closed doors in Strasbourg to discuss proposals put forward by the United Kingdom - to reform the European Court of Human Rights. Masquerading as reforms to improve the court's effectiveness, many of these proposals will reverse years of progress in access to justice for individuals across Europe. The UK holds the chairmanship of the CoE until May, and has made plain its intention to use this position to stem the power and scope of the court. In the leaked draft of the document being negotiated - the Brighton Declaration - the British government set out ways in which the court could be changed and its powers reduced.
On examination of the proposed reforms, it is clear that the UK government is thinking exclusively of the decisions which have gone against it and is lashing out to prevent the court from further perceived interference - with a view to satisfying the domestic political lobby. In fact, the court only rarely overturns the decisions of British courts. But in order to satisfy the critics at home, the British government is prepared to champion changes which could have a devastating effect on the future of the European human rights system - which provides vital protection for 800 million people
The court's job is to enforce the European Convention on Human Rights. It hears cases which arise in any of the CoE's 47 member states. Cases from Britain account for only 2.4 per cent of those reviewed by the court. More than 25 per cent of cases come from Russia. Collectively, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland and Bulgaria account for more than 50 per cent of its caseload. For individuals from those countries, the court provides the only means of redress for millions of people. This February, the court found Russia responsible after police took a man from his cell into a forest where they beat, kicked and throttled him to force a confession to murder. The court also held Ukraine responsible for a police beating, which left a man disabled. In both cases, the authorities failed to investigate police crimes and to bring those responsible to justice.
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© 2012 Amiki d'Eulingu