Protocol No 14 to the Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, amending the control system of the Convention
Command Paper Number: Cm 6370 Protocol No 14 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, amending the Control System of the Convention (PDF, 250K)
This Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights was adopted on 13 May 2004 at the 114th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Government signed the Protocol on 13 July 2004. The purpose of the Protocol is to amend certain provisions of the Convention in order to improve the efficiency of the Convention system, particularly in the light of the continually increasing workload of the European Court of Human Rights. The Protocol will enter into force three months after all the parties to the Convention have ratified it. The principal changes to the control machinery provided for in the Protocol are:
- the Court’s filtering capacity is re-inforced by permitting single judges to declare cases inadmissible where they are clearly unmeritorious from the outset (currently this is done by committees of three judges);
- committees of three judges are permitted to give judgments in repetitive cases where the case law of the Court is already well established, for instance the many cases on length of proceedings (currently this is done by Chambers of seven judges);
- a new admissibility criterion is added concerning cases where the applicant has not suffered a significant disadvantage, provided that the case has already been considered by the domestic courts, and provided that there are no general human rights reasons why the application should be examined on its merits.
The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs has responsibility for policy relating to human rights. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has responsibility for the conclusion of treaties.
It is generally recognised that the current caseload of the European Court of Human Rights is excessive (during 2003 some 39,000 new applications were lodged and at the end of that year apparently 65,000 applications were pending). This increase is due not only to the accession of new States parties to the convention but also to a general increase in the number of applications brought against States that have been parties to the Convention for many years. It is clear that the output of the Court is insufficient to keep pace with the influx of cases brought before it. The prospect of a continuing increase in that workload in the next few years is such that the reform of the control system of the Convention itself is considered necessary to preserve that system for the future, while not affecting the judicial character of the system or the principle of the right of individual application. Protocol 14 is the result of a negotiating process amongst Council of Europe members initiated by the Committee of Ministers in the year 2000. Overall, the changes that will be introduced by the Protocol should reduce the time spent by the Court on clearly inadmissible applications and repetitive applications, so as to enable the Court to concentrate on the cases that raise genuinely important human rights issues.
Apart from creating a new position of rapporteur to assist the judges of the Court, there are no resource implications in the Protocol. The Government’s position is that additional resources for the Court should be provided by reprioritising existing Council of Europe funding, rather than by placing additional financial burdens on member States.
Reservations and Declarations
While the Protocol does not contain any provision on reservations, by its very nature an amending Protocol of this type excludes the making of reservations. The Government do not intend to make any declarations on ratification.
Protocol 14 makes changes to the control system under the European Convention on Human Rights, but it does not affect the substantive rights guaranteed by that Convention and its additional Protocols. No primary legislation will therefore be needed to give effect to this Protocol.
Non-governmental organisations active in the field of human rights were consulted by the Government and participated in the work of the main Council of Europe committee that negotiated this Protocol. While in general these organisations support the provisions in this Protocol, they did not support the inclusion of the new admissibility criterion in Article 12. Its inclusion was however supported by a two-thirds majority of judges of the European Court of Human Rights, who were also consulted during the course of the negotiations.
The Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories will be informed of the Government’s intention to ratify this Protocol. Separate extension to these territories is not appropriate in the case of a treaty which amends the control machinery under the Convention in respect of all cases submitted to the Court.
Presented to Parliament