Clarke clashes with court chief over rights reforms

 

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke clashed with the president of the European Court of Human Rights today as he declared that it would undergo “substantial reforms”.

The changes - outlined in the Brighton declaration due to be formally adopted today - will lead to the Strasbourg-based court handling fewer cases in an attempt to clear a massive backlog, Mr Clarke said.

In an embarrassing move, however, the court’s president Sir Nicolas Bratza pre-empted his announcement by saying that governments should leave the court to decide how it carries out its own work, insisting the reforms would make no change to the type of cases considered.

Today’s declaration came at a time when the Government is at loggerheads with the ECHR over the deportation of radical cleric Abu Qatada.

Human rights’ experts insisted that Prime Minister David Cameron needed European “blood on his hands” in order to appease his own backbenches.

However, today’s watered-down version of the Conservatives’ initial reform proposals failed to impress some of the party’s MPs, who angrily called for a complete withdrawal from the European Convention and the creation of a British Bill of Rights during a Commons debate on the 51-year-old Jordanian.

Mr Clarke said a deal to reform the human rights court had been agreed after a debate amongst the 47 member nations of the Council of Europe in Brighton.

Among the key proposals is a recommendation that the ECHR should reject an application if a national court has already considered a similar one, unless there is a “serious” question about the correct interpretation of the law.

But Sir Nicolas insisted that was already the case.

Acknowledging the court clashed with member states at times over judgments, he added: “It is in the nature of the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law that sometimes minority interests have to be secured against the view of the majority.”

Mr Clarke retorted: “I won't accuse him of complacency but I am a little less relaxed than Sir Nicolas about the progress being made.”

Sir Nicolas told the council it was essential the court remained independent: ”We are, I have to say, uncomfortable with the idea that governments can in some way dictate to the court how its case law should evolve or how it should carry out the judicial functions conferred on it.“

The British Government insists that thereforms are necessary to clear a backlog of 150,000 cases – with 3,000 pending from the UK alone – and to strengthen the convention, by placing more onus on nation states to implement it.

An earlier leaked draft of the declaration drew angry criticisms from human rights organisations who feared it would “neuter” the court. today, despite Government denials that Mr Cameron’s initial proposals had been watered down, experts said some of the most contentious issues had been softened to allow the ECHR more discretion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific