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ERRC Letter on

1 September 2005

Council of Europe Authorities Urged to Ensure Adequate Representation of Non-Governmental Organizations and Lawyers with Recognised Competence in the Field of International Law

Budapest, 1 September 2005. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) today sent a letter to Council of Europe Secretary General Mr Terry Davis, urging him to ensure the transparency and fairness of future reforms to the European Court of Human Rights by including independent experts on the so-called "Group of Wise Persons" charged with drawing up a long-term comprehensive strategy for insuring the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights. The ERRC letter specifically calls for the inclusion of NGO representatives in the Group, as well as of lawyers with recognized competence in the field of international law. The ERRC letter additionally calls for transparency in the course of constituting the Group, as well as for attention to ensuring adequate representation to victim groups. The letter is copied to a number of other Council of Europe authorities.

The ERRC urges other NGOs and individuals to send similar letters of concern to the Council of Europe. The full text of the ERRC letter, as well as the names and contact information for relevant Council of Europe authorities follows below:

Honourable Mr Davis,

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation, welcomes the outcomes of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, held in Warsaw on 16-17 May 2005, on the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights. We also welcome the commitments made by the Committee of Ministers to establish a Group of Wise Persons responsible for drawing up a long-term comprehensive strategy for insuring the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights. The ERRC considers that in order to have a comprehensive strategy for restructuring this most important institution for the protection of human rights, fundamental values are engaged. These include transparency, due process, and the full participation of civil society.

In this context, the ERRC submits the following recommendations to the Committee of Ministers on the appointment of the Group of Wise Persons:

The ERRC urges the Committee of Ministers to enhance the fairness and transparency of this process by establishing procedures in advance and providing the public -- and in particular interested groups -- sufficient time to review and respond to the procedures. To ensure due process, we urge the following:

The Committee of Ministers should ensure that there is adequate representation on the Group of Wise Persons of both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and lawyers with recognised competence in the field of international law and who regularly represent applicants before the Court of Human Rights. Being familiar with the current challenges faced by the Court from the viewpoint of the applicant and civil society, we believe that the experience and expertise of lawyers and NGOs will be instrumental in discussions of the future of the Court. The inclusion of these two key groups of persons in the Group of Wise Persons will ensure that the process of reform is informed by the opinions of actual and potential Court applicants.

Appointment of such persons to the Group of Wise Persons would be consistent with the commitments made at the Council of Europe's Third Summit of Heads of State and Government on 16-17 May 2005 to enhance the participation of NGOs in the Council of Europe's activities based on the common criteria adopted by the Committee of Ministers: "
 

  • candidates are to have the qualities of integrity and independence essential to the exercise of their functions. In particular, they are to have no hierarchical link with a government of a member state or with a Council of Europe body;
  • the group should bring together the following skills: detailed knowledge of the European Convention on Human Rights control mechanism; recognised competence in the field of international law and its application at national and international levels (in this respect, a balance should be struck between the different European legal systems); experience of the management of a national or international court comparable to the European Court of Human Rights;
  • at least one member of the group should have recognised expertise in auditing and financial management".

Additionally, the Court itself, as the primary guarantor of fundamental human rights in Europe, should ensure fair representation in the Group on the basis of gender, age, disability, and ethnicity. Since these vulnerable groups are those most frequently in need of human rights protection, their voices must be heard in the evolution of new and improved procedures for said protection. During the course of its restructuring, the Court should take positive action to ensure inclusion of all sectors of society, especially the most vulnerable.

In order to ensure such diverse representation, The ERRC also urges the Committee of Ministers to ensure transparent process of selection and the participation of civil society both in the process of nomination and in the pre-selection of the members of the Group of Wise Persons.

The ERRC joins the recommendations made by Amnesty International, the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) and the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre that the voice of civil society should be heard early and often in all discussions and measures proposed which aim to achieve better implementation of the European Convention in each of the 46 Council of Europe Member States and the long-term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a non-governmental organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has been involved in the legal defence of more than 30 cases of human rights violations against Roma ruled on or currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights, as well as first-hand field research in more than a dozen countries. Information about the ERRC's legal defence activities, as well as additional information about the organization, is available on the Internet at http://errc.org.

Sincerely,
Dimitrina Petrova,
Executive Director

Persons wishing to send similar appeals are urged to address them to:

Mr Terry Davis, Secretary General
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 99

Mr Diogo Freitas do Amaral,
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 11

Mr René Van der Linden,
President of the Parliamentary Assembly
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 90 21 56 51

Mr Luzius Wildhaber,
President of the European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 30

Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio
Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 99

Mr Joaquim Duarte,
Chairman of the Ministers` Deputies
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 11

Mr Bruno Haller
Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 90 21 56 51

Mr Christos Rozakis, Vice-President
European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 30

Mr Jean-Paul Costa, Vice-President
European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 30

Mr Serhiy Holovaty, Chairperson
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Council of Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
France
Fax: +33 3 90 21 56 51

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