Event highlight

Workshop takes stock of challenges in implementing European Court of Human Rights judgments

Centre for Fundamental Rights is co-organiser as part of Germany’s Council of Europe Presidency.

A workshop on current challenges surrounding the implementation of judgments of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) drew over 200 people 30 April 2021, including government officials and diplomats from Council of Europe member states, NGO representatives, lawyers, and researchers.

The event was organised as part of the current German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe – by the Centre for Fundamental Rights at the Hertie School, Middlesex University, and the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, gave opening remarks and emphasised that the credibility of the ECtHR and the entire convention system depend upon human rights laws being enforced in line with the legal obligations of all member states. She said the execution of ECtHR judgments faces challenges in areas where they highlight complex structural problems or concern conflicts that affect deeply rooted traditions.

The workshop focused on three key issues: delays, deficiencies and resistance in executing judgments. Başak Çalı, Professor of International Law at the Hertie School and Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights, Philipp Leach, Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) at Middlesex University, and Dr. Sigrid Jacoby, German government Representative for Matters of Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice, welcomed the speakers and attendees on behalf of the organisers.

The first panel focused on delayed execution. Clare Ovey, Head of the Department of the Execution of Judgments, Council of Europe, who chaired the panel, offered statistics on the number of ECtHR judgments awaiting full execution. In April 2021, there were 2000 cases waiting for full execution five years after the court’s judgment and 900 that have been waiting for full execution for more than ten years.  Øyvind Stiansen (PluriCourts, University of Oslo) presented findings on factors that lead to delayed execution based on the Georgetown/PluriCourts European Court of Human Rights Database  and George Stafford (European Implementation Network, Strasbourg) discussed possible bottom-up and top-down solutions to the delayed implementation. Veronika Fikfak (I-Courts, University of Copenhagen) discussed the ‘friendly settlements’ – agreements between states and victims of human rights violations, which do not receive judgments from the Court and are not part of the judgment execution monitoring process.

The second panel featuring Andreas von Staden (University of Hamburg), Alice Donald (Middlesex University) and Kerem Altiparmak (International Commission of Jurists), chaired by Davide Paris (University of Foggia and MPI for Comparative Public Law and International Law), considered the topic of deficient execution. Panelists explored and mapped reasons for deficient execution. They looked at the perspective of the state – what can be done at the national level to avoid and overcome deficient execution, and from the perspective of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. 

The third panel was dedicated to the topic of resistance to execution. Adam Bodnar, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Poland presented the idea of ‘principle resistance’, asking whether this idea, in which some countries resist the full implementation of judgments of some cases and enter into a dialogue with the ECtHR through their national courts, is acceptable. Başak Çalı reflected in her presentation on lessons to be learned from the execution of ‘Article 18 judgments’ (restrictions of Convention rights for ulterior purposes). Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, Professor in Human Rights Law at University of Liverpool, looked at the Court’s involvement in the process of execution through infringement proceedings, asking whether this process could make a sustainable and substantive difference in implementation. The panel was chaired by Nils Muižnieks, Regional Director for Europe at Amnesty International.

In the concluding session, experts, ECtHR judges and scholars including Christos Giakoumopoulos, Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, Ganna Yudkivska, Judge at European Court of Human Rights, Philip Leach, Professor of Human Rights Law at Middlesex University and Director of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Isabelle Niedlispacher, Government Agent in respect of Belgium and Clara Sandoval-Villalba, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Essex Transitional Justice Network at the University of Essex, were invited to reflect on the discussions and the question that were raised throughout the workshop.  

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