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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links