Human rights court takes holiday with huge backlog

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights (EHCR) is about to embark on a seven-week holiday, leaving a backlog of some 60,000 cases awaiting consideration.

British lawyers claim the court is at risk of breaching its own convention with the average wait for cases to go before judges now topping five years. Under Article Six of the European Convention of Human Rights, undue and lengthy delays in legal proceedings are a breach of human rights.

"It is unacceptable to make people wait for five years for a judgement." said a spokesman for Stonewall, a Gay rights organisation which has a number of cases before the court.

The organisation Advice and Individual Rights in Europe (Aire) has 45 cases pending before the court. "Justice delayed is justice denied," Aire director Nula Mole said. "Unless governments (of countries which have ratified the convention) can find more money for the court it will get worse." Many thousands of applications are being made by people in former Soviet block countries which became signatories to the convention in the late 90s. she said.

Britain has the fifth highest number of provisional applications before the court. There are 4,457 British cases alleging breaches of human rights awaiting consideration. Another 706 registered applications have already been accepted and are awaiting a hearing date.

Italy heads the table, though, with 8,273 pending cases followed by France with 7,767 and Poland with 5,816.

The backlog of five years applies to all countries. However the court has just seven lawyers to deal with the UK cases. It is understood they are not just overstretched but in danger of being swamped by the outstanding case load.

Sadiq Khan, a London lawyer with law firm Christian Fisher said he has several cases which have taken five years to reach a determination by the court. "I have one case when the petition was lodged last year and we still haven't heard anything."

All these cases involve people, sometimes in desperate circumstances, who have already spent many years exhausting their domestic remedies in the UK courts.

While the EHCR can give priority to cases in which life is at risk, those cases involving the loss of a home or job must remain in the queue.

Last year the court introduced a new system to accommodate the backlog. A permanent court was established, replacing the original two-tier system. But last week the court president Luzius Wildhader admitted the problem was still daunting.

In the first five and a half months of this year the restructured court in has opened 10,217 provisional case files - already two-thirds of last year's total of 16,353. Mr Wildhader appealed for a "firm political commitment" by governments of member states to ensure the convention was "respected at national level" to ease the pressure on the court.

Wait For Judgment

ROBBIE POWELL died in a Swansea hospital nine years ago, aged 10, suffering from Addison's disease, which is rare but treatable. His parents, Diane and Will (right), took legal action, believing doctors had covered up their failure to identify his condition in time.

In 1997, the Appeal Court ruled doctors had no legal duty to tell the truth to the family of a child who dies under their care. Mr Powell has been diagnosed with post-traumatic shock, which he says is caused by refusal to tell the truth, leaving him unable to work. In October he wrote to the ECHR claiming a breach of his human rights. Even if the case is accepted, the Powells may have to wait five more years for judgment. Mr Powell says: "Half a million pounds has been spent on the legal battle and we still don't know the truth. I suppose I will just have to be patient."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence