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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen