Trend's exclusive interview with newly appointed chairman of the European Court of Human Rights, Jean-Paul Costa
Question: What are your plans for 2007 as newly appointed President of the European Court of Human Rights?
Answer: My first priority is to work towards the entry into force of Protocol No. 14, which still needs to be ratified by the Russian Federation. This significant reform will, among other things, enable the Court to deal with cases more efficiently, particularly the most routine and straightforward ones. But we know that it will not be enough on its own and that is why we at the Court are already preparing our response to the report of the Wise Persons' Group set up by the Third Council of Europe Summit in 2005. In January the Group's Chair submitted its recommendations to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. A seminar is being organised in San Marino in March and this will be an opportunity for an in-depth exchange of views on the Report and of course the Court's opinion will be important in this debate.
At the same time we must and we will continue to review our internal procedures and practices to make sure that we are using our resources as efficiently as possible. The Court has regularly increased its productivity, but in the present context we must explore every avenue for further improvement.
I will also be seeking to encourage national authorities to do more to share the burden of Convention implementation. The underlying aim of the Convention is not to encourage more and more people to come to Strasbourg, but rather to create a situation where they do not have to because they can complain to - and if necessary get redress from - national courts. Reinforcing the subsidiary character of the Convention system is crucial for its long-term effectiveness. This is something towards which we must all work together, the Court, Council of Europe and the Contracting States themselves. It is not something that the Court can achieve on its own.
Question: Can you inform of reforms in the Court and when you are planning to ratify Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. How could it increase the efficiency of the activities of the Court?
Answer: As I have said we are waiting for the Russians to ratify. Once they have done so we have to wait a further three months before it enters into force. But we have already taken some steps. We have adapted certain Registry working methods to be ready for the new procedures. It is essentially a question of simplifying and streamlining the procedure for cases which are either clearly inadmissible or plainly well founded вЂ" the latter being what we call repetitive cases. So the Court will be able to process these cases more rapidly and this will allow it to devote more time to the more important and complex cases, the more serious allegations of human rights abuses and the cases that identify new structural problems. It is therefore not only designed to make the Court more efficient, but also to strengthen the overall effectiveness of the system.
Question: In the past the European Court of Human Rights has viewed lawsuits filed by Azerbaijan citizens. The Government lost two cases. What is the major shortage in the sentences made by courts of Azerbaijan?
Answer: So far the Court has delivered three judgments finding violations of the Convention in respect of Azerbaijan. One case concerned the operation of a transitional rule on the right to appeal following the introduction of the new Code of Criminal Procedure. In another case the Court found a violation of the prohibition of torture under Article 3 of the Convention and in a third a violation of the freedom of association under Article 11 of the Convention. As to pending cases, they raise various fair trial issues such as lack of a public hearing, access to court, independence and impartiality of the courts, questions of legal certainity arising in respect of the quashing of final judicial decisions. These cases will, if found to be admissible, be decided on their particular facts and in accordance with the principles laid down in the Court's case-law but clearly I cannot make any general comments on the functioning of the courts in Azerbaijan.
Quesation: Could you provide the number of lawsuits filed at the European Court of Human Rights and what is the major subject of these appeals?
Answer: There are currently around 630 applications pending against Azerbaijan. These cases will only result in a judgment if they satisfy the admissibility criteria. In general a very high proportion of cases are declared inadmissible, around 90% of the cases coming into the system. As to the issues, in addition to those which I have already mentioned, there are some complaints concerning delays in the State registration of NGOs. There are some complaints under Article 3 alleging ill treatment in police custody and challenging police conduct during demonstrations; other complaints concern alleged lack of medical treatment in prison. There are also complaints relating to the parliamentary elections in November 2005. Again these cases will be examined by the Court in due course.
Question: Is the European Court of Human Rights prepared to view Azerbaijani вЂ" Armenian conflict over NagornoвЂ"Karabakh?
Answer: The Court is a judicial body; it processes and adjudicates complaints brought before it within the legal framework established by the European Convention on Human Rights. Whether any specific issue falls within its jurisdiction can only be decided on the facts of the particular case.