Eminent Council of Europe officials, judges, civil society and academics called for stronger implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments through a greater sense of “collective responsibility” at an event launching the European Implementation Network at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on Friday, 2 December.
The European Implementation Network (EIN) is a new non-governmental organisation established to serve as a bridge between the Council of Europe and civil society, and to advocate for the full, effective and rapid implementation of judgments. A panel discussion, moderated by Professor Philip Leach of Middlesex University and Vice-Chair of EIN, focused on how Court judgments might be realized to produce real change on the ground for affected people. Each of the four speakers—Judge Işil Karakaş, Vice-President of the Court; Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe; Christos Giakoumopoulos, Director of the Human Rights Directorate of the Council of Europe; and Professor Başak Çalı, Chair of the EIN—stressed the urgent need for governments to fully and effectively implement Court judgments.
“We’ve moved from a backlog crisis [with the Court] to an implementation crisis,” noted Commissioner Muižnieks, “and one way to address it is to find implementation champions at the national level—or ‘organize the troops’—to take focused action.”
“We don’t just have a problem with non-implementation; we also see some governments engaged in “minimalist compliance,” where they do as little as possible to implement a Court judgment,” explained Professor Çalı, who teaches both at Koç University in Istanbul and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.
One solution to the crucial problem of unimplemented judgments, Mr. Giakoumopoulos noted, is a stronger sense of “collective responsibility” for these judgments. The Committee of Ministers—the Council of Europe body charged with supervising the execution of Court judgments—has an important role to play. So does the Court, as Judge Karakaş explained, in crafting judgments with clear and specific remedies. Ultimately, however, compliance is a national-level project. Governments must not only feel obliged to execute the judgments against them, but also need to stand firm when other states fail to do so.
This is where the European Implementation Network comes in, as EIN Chair Professor Çalı explained: to help litigators and activists from Council of Europe member states understand how the Council of Europe mechanisms relating to implementation of judgments work and empower them to use them; and to provide those mechanisms with the information and arguments needed to improve the supervision process. The EIN, as a bridge between those working on the ground and those in Strasbourg, aims to help “stiffen the spines” both of the Committee of Ministers (described by Mr. Giakoumopoulos as “a very polite body”) and of national governments in the service of improved implementation.
The EIN is the first entity entirely dedicated to the implementation of European Court judgments, and one of a few NGOs based in Strasbourg dealing with compliance in this manner. The EIN works with a range of partners, from Council of Europe institutions to litigating NGOs to national government officials, to address the crisis of non-implementation of human rights cases.