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European Union: Implementation of Judgments Issued by European Court of Human Rights

(Aug. 8, 2011) The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is the main court defending human rights in Europe and applying the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHRFF). Pursuant to article 46 of the Convention, States Parties “undertake to abide by the final judgments of the Court in any case to which they are parties.” (ECHRFF, CETS No 005, Council of Europe website (last visited Aug. 5, 2011).) Hence, at the national level, states must ensure implementation of ECHR judgments by taking action to redress the unjust situation of those found to have been wronged, through paying “just satisfaction,” that is, compensation, to the victim, abolishing or amending impugned legislation, and/or changing illegal practices. (ECHRFF, art. 41, id.)

Execution of the judgments rendered by the ECHR is assigned to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the 47-member European international organization that promotes rule of law and human rights. The respondent state prepares “action reports” to inform the Committee of measures it plans to take at the national level. Since the entry into force of Protocol No. 14 to the ECHRFF on June 1, 2010, the Committee of Ministers has the authority to refer a respondent state to the ECHR if the state refuses to abide by an ECHR decision or if there are problems in interpreting that decision. (Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe website (last visited July 29, 2011).)

Although most of the Council of Europe Member States comply promptly with ECHR judgments, some states are chronically slow in implementation. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has often criticized the delayed implementation of ECHR judgments in nine states: Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, recently pointed out that slow implementation of ECHR judgments is a serious issue, because “a prompt, full and effective execution of the Court's judgments is a key for the effective implementation of the European Convention's standards in domestic law.” (Judgments Issued by the European Court Cannot Be Ignored, THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMISSIONER'S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMENT (July 19, 2011).)

Detailed information on the implementation of ECHR judgments is published in the annual report prepared by the Committee of Ministers. The 2010 report was published on April 19, 2011. (COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS, SUPERVISION OF THE EXECUTION OF JUDGMENTS OF THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS: 4th ANNUAL REPORT 2010 (Apr. 2011).)