Last week the Prime Minister, David Cameron, attacked the European Court of Human Rights and said that it was on the verge of turning into a “small claims court”. Cameron’s concerns are now being downplayed after the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza, highlighted the importance of the court’s supervisory role and stressed that any criticism of the court must be based on real facts.
Bratza made his remarks during a press conference, where he announced the total number of the court’s cases for 2011 and the respective judgments. The figures showed that the court had ruled against the UK on eight occasions. The court considered 19 cases involving the UK’s compliance of the European Convention on Human Rights in 2011.
Bratza highlighted the importance of upholding human rights, despite the financial downturn. “Human rights, the rule of law and justice seem to be slipping down the political agenda in the current economic climate. It is in times like these that we must remember that human rights are not a luxury and that the burden of their protection must be a shared one.
“We must continue to ensure that the court remains strong, independent and courageous in its defence of the European convention on human rights.”
The court’s President also stressed that criticism against the court was oftentimes ill-founded. “It was also important that its [the court's] independence and authority should not be undermined and that criticism by governments, even where legitimate, should rely on reasoned argument rather than emotion and exaggeration.”
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said that human rights violations should not be trivialised. “Whatever your views on the decisions, deportation to places of torture, DNA retention and the rights of rape victims can hardly be described as ‘small claims’ to the people concerned.
“Trivialising rights and freedoms is a real mistake: more worthy of a Bullingdon spirit than a bulldog one.”
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