Campaigners to fight human rights reforms

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The Independent Online

British attempts to curtail the European Court of Human Rights should be rejected, campaigners insisted ahead of a two-day summit.

Ministers and senior representatives from the Council of Europe's 47 member countries gather in Brighton today to discuss possible reforms, which have already drawn angry criticism from human rights and legal bodies.

It is hoped an agreement will be reached, known as the Brighton Declaration, to ensure, the Council of Europe says, that the court operates effectively and deals with a massive backlog, while promoting better implementation of human rights on a national level. The summit comes at a time when Britain has clashed with the European court – most notably on the extradition of radical cleric Abu Qatada, who was rearrested yesterday after the ECHR ruled he would not receive a fair trial because evidence against him had been obtained using torture.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who will formally open the summit on Thursday morning, said he was "quietly confident" of securing reforms. But Human Rights Watch joined others in calling for the rejection of some of the changes.

These include a proposal that would require the court to reject an application if a national court has considered a similar one, unless there was a "serious" question about the interpretation of the law.