The United Kingdom, which holds the Presidency of the Council of Europe until May, has made proposals, together with France, to reform the European Court of Human Rights. The 47 States of the Council of Europe are meeting today (18-20 April) in Brighton to discuss them.
“By presenting such reforms, the UK ‘s coalition government is stripping each one of us of our basic human rights,” said Michael Cashman, who will be leading the debate for the Socialist and Democrats.
“We should never forget that without the judgements of the Court, homosexuality might still be criminalised in parts of the EU, and even parts of the UK” continued Cashman, who is also President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
While they support necessary reforms to the functioning of the Court, the Labour Members in the European Parliament denounced the Tory proposals to codify the “principles of subsidiarity” and “margin of appreciation” together with the addition of new admissibility requirements and deadlines to access the Court.
“We must make the Court more efficient in order to alleviate its current heavy workload. But many of the reforms put forward by the Tory government this week in Brighton seek to restrict the access of an individual citizens to the European Court of Human Rights,” said Michael Cashman.
The European Court of Human Rights upholds the Convention on Human Rights “which was created from the ashes of the Second World War, thanks to Winston Churchill’s efforts, in order to safeguard democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe,” said Michael Cashman.
“The Court enables individuals to bring governments responsible for violations of fundamental rights to account before a European Court, and it ensures that victims unable to get redress at the national level can have an effective remedy.
“David Cameron should pay greater heed to the existing legal obligations under the Convention. The number of victims requiring recourse to the Court would be significantly reduced if his government properly implemented Court judgments”, he said.
The UK government sponsored High-Level Conference of the Council of Europe meeting in Brighton this week will also debate the proposed reforms to the European Court of Human Rights.
MEPs will also be debating this on Thursday 18 April during the plenary session in Strasbourg, along with the longstanding issue of the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The European Union is obliged to join the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 6 of the Treaty of Lisbon. All EU legislation will be bound to respect it, and an individual will be able to contest it if it violates his/her human rights. The United Kingdom has objected to its accession, as the Tory/LibDem government fears that this will offer new powers to the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights .
“It’s unacceptable and deeply questionable when at the last minute a Member State blocks a whole process that’s been agreed already and is a legal obligation. We should not play around with human rights when there are people in situations across the EU that could benefit from the compliance of EU legislation to the European Convention”, said Michael Cashman.
” Everyone who cares about human rights can see that the Tory – LibDem reforms are a real threat to rights that so many take for granted,” he concluded.