Ukraine in fourth place out of 46 European countries in number of claims to the European Court of Human Rights
Our 6,800 applications as of 1 January 2007 are only outdone by Russians, Turks and Romanians. In each of the claims the Court could order Ukraine to pay compensation for damages. For judicial bankruptcy, since such a number of applications demonstrates the States inability to protect the rights of its own citizens. One thing only is saving Ukraine at present – the Court is overloaded and it takes from five to seven years for a case to be considered. Moscow, peeved by some negative judgments issued by the Court, is now blocking attempts to improve procedure.
The European Court of Human Rights, which represents the last hope for protection against the arbitrary will of the State, is drowning under the flow of applications and openly acknowledges that it cannot cope with the huge number of cases before it. And a crucial attempt to simplify the procedure for considering cases is under threat, with the Russian State Duma not having ratified the reform. The Russians claim that the Court too often hands down judgments which are political, not juridical.
Over the last year the Court in Strasbourg has doubled its productivity and dealt with almost thirty thousand applications. However these Herculean efforts are negated by ordinary Europeans who over the same period have lodged almost twice as many claims, with 100 cases not reviewed now reaching a record 90 thousand.
Jean-Paul Costa, President of the European Court of Human Rights, says: “The response to this rise cannot be an increase in the number of judges and personnel. In theory that is possible, however it would be problematical running such a court since we need to ensure consistency in our judgments. The Fourteenth Protocol to the Convention on Human Rights envisages amendments to procedure for consideration of judgments which will allow us to increase efficiency by 20-25%.
However last Western Christmas Day, the Russian State Duma presented Strasbourg with an unwelcome present by refusing to ratify the Fourteenth Protocol, thus effectively blocking reform.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian State Duma committee on international affairs: “Many Russian deputies still have doubts as to whether the Court is guided in all its judgments exclusively by legal considerations. There are fears that in a number of cases it is taking a political stand. The vote on the Fourteenth Protocol failed to gain a majority either for or against ratification. We have all grounds for returning at any moment to a review of this issue”.
Strasbourg does not understand the Russian criticism, but hopes that their position will change.
Thomas Hammerberg, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, states: “45 countries have ratified these amendments which are purely organizational, and not directed against any particular country. One country – Russia – has decided not to approve them. If governments begin reacting against court judgments this will be a bad sign, since the Court is impartial. We need to accept it since we ourselves created this institution together in order to protect the rights of our people.”
Just in the last year the European Court of Human Rights has issued 119 judgments against Ukraine. The vast majority of these judgments were about not ensuring the right to a fair trial, including unreasonable periods for review of cases and non-implementation of court rulings. However this is only the tip of the iceberg of Ukrainian applications which the Court in Strasbourg has not managed to review for years. If the reform does get going, the melting of this iceberg will lead to financial flooding with the State maybe understanding too late that it would have been cheaper to think earlier about improving the efficiency of the judiciary