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NEWS

Implementation of Strasbourg judgments: Fair Trials submit brief to Council of Europe rapporteur

editor - March 24, 2017 - council of europe

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is arguably the most developed human rights treaty in force worldwide. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), tasked with the interpretation of the Convention, has been a driver of legal change across Europe and its progressive jurisprudence has been hailed by the international human rights movement. Yet this jurisprudence risks to be meaningless if implementation does not follow suit. In fact, member states, that are ultimately responsible for the actual enforcement of the judgments, too often fail to translate the Court’s orders into concrete measures.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is currently investigating the status of the overall implementation of ECtHR judgments across Europe in order to improve the effectiveness of the system. Fair Trials, in cooperation with its European network of fair trial defenders (LEAP), has recently provided crucial information to rapporteur Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’. Our brief specifically concerned cases of violation of articles 5 and 6 ECHR, which protect the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial.

In consultation with our LEAP members from Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Estonia among others, we compiled a list of cases where the European Court had ordered the State to remedy a violation of articles 5 or 6, which was not effectively enforced by the domestic authorities.

In Martin v. Estonia (2013), for instance, the ECtHR found that the defendant’s - a minor - right to a fair trial had been seriously compromised because he was not assisted by a lawyer of his own choice. The European judges held that a retrial, a reopening or a review of the case represented in principle an appropriate way of redressing such violation. The supreme Court of Estonia did initiate the review application and upheld the conviction. In fact, the Supreme Court stated that the violations established by the ECtHR were committed during the the pre-trial investigation phase of the proceedings, and there were no violations at the trial phase. Therefore, according to the Estonian Court, the violations did not have "decisive" effect on the outcome of the proceedings, and there was no basis for reopening the case.

Cases like this were found in multiple jurisdictions and were outlined in the brief we sent to the PACE rapporteur. Le Borgn’ has recently visited Poland and Hungary in a fact-finding mission, where he was further briefed by our LEAP members the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Fair Trials and the LEAP network are very conscious of the challenges posed by ineffective implementation to the human rights protected by the Convention, including the right to a fair trial. This is why, on the occasion of the LEAP Annual Conference on 3rd-4th March 2017, we discussed the establishment of a LEAP working group on the implementation of ECtHR judgments. Great interest was shown across the board, including by our LEAP lawyers, academics and NGO representatives; the proposal was further supported by guest speakers Judged Julia Laffranque (ECtHR) and Judge Inga Reine (CJEU). Fair Trials will work on the project in the upcoming months in order to define the group’s objectives and activities.

Read the full submission to the PACE rapporteur here.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71. For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page. FB iconClick to share this story on Facebook

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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