Human Rights Trust Fund
A precious resource to boost work for human rights throughout Europe
A few years ago, the Norwegian government launched a project to give support to Council of Europe member countries in carrying out the work needed to implement the judgments of the Court of Human Rights. The initiative came from a realisation that many member states faced difficulties in changing their law or national practices simply because of financial or structural obstacles, and that what was needed was a structure to help with capacity building and expert support.
The result was the Human Rights Trust Fund (HRTF), set up in March 2008 within the Council of Europe Development Bank. Its remit is to provide funding for states' efforts to meet their commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights and other Council of Europe human rights standards.
Five countries joined Norway in the fund: Germany and the Netherlands from the start, Finland, Switzerland, and recently the United Kingdom on the occasion of its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers ; providing seed money to help in building human rights throughout Europe.
More than 6 million euros have been granted so far to finance activities in this respect.
In an interview, Matthew Johnson, former Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Council of Europe and Chairperson of the Assembly of Contributors of the HRTF speaks about the Fund’s purpose and the innovative way it supports joint efforts to protect and promote human rights.
These activities aim, inter alia, at contributing to ensure that:
- effective remedies exist for everyone with an arguable complaint of violation of the Convention,
- there are domestic procedures complying with the Convention to conduct effective investigations and handle cases of serial violation of the Convention,
- effective mechanisms exist for verifying the compatibility of draft legislation and administrative practice with the Convention,
- adequate organisation, operation and infrastructure of administrative and judicial public service exist.
Through these activities, the HRTF essentially seeks to strengthen the sustainability of the Court by contributing to the full and timely execution of its judgements and alleviating therefore its important workload by reducing the number of cases brought before it.
Amongst the activities approved by the Assembly of the HRTF:
- putting in place effective norms and procedures for a better enforcement of national court decisions ;
- providing magistrates and lawyers with high-quality training in Convention law and contributing to the dissemination of the Court's case-law and to its effective accessibility for legal professionals ;
- assisting Bar Associations, individual lawyers specialised in human rights and legal clinics in providing all necessary information to potential applicants before the European Court of Human Rights ;
- commissioning translations of key case-law of the European Court of Human Rights into relevant languages and ensuring dissemination of such case-law to legal professionals ;
- providing support to execute the European Court's judgments in the field of freedom of expression and the media by raising awareness of judges and prosecutors on the Court's case-law;
- supporting the newly established National Preventive Mechanisms to effectively prevent ill-treatment and torture from occurring in all types of places where human beings are or could be deprived of their liberty.
"The Human Rights Trust Fund is a unique and effective instrument to support the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights within the Member States of the Council of Europe. It aims, in particular, at strengthening the sustainability of the European Court of Human Rights. Six countries contribute to the Fund: Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands and, since 2012, the UK too. We hope others will join us as there is plenty to do to maintain and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms on our continent."
Ellen Berends, Chairperson of the Governing Body of the HRTF, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the Council of Europe
"Instruments such as the Human Rights Trust Fund are invaluable in order to help translate our human rights standards into practice. This Fund is an example of good financial practice, encouraging Member States to better participate in promoting the principles and values of the Council of Europe. Through this financial tool, the Council of Europe and the CEB can widen and enhance the impact of their action in this field and contribute to the efforts of Member States in complying with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments of the Council of Europe."
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
"The participation of the CEB to the Human Rights Trust Fund is a clear sign of its strong attachment to the values promoted by the Council of Europe and particularly of its support for the European system of human rights protection. CEB's social mandate is intrisically linked to these values."
Rolf Wenzel Governor of the CEB
- "Removing the obstacles to the non-enforcement of domestic court judgments; ensuring an effective implementation of domestic court judgments"
- "Support towards the implementation of judgments of the ECtHR concerning action of security forces in Chechnya (Russian Federation)"
- "Support to the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights in areas affected by the South Ossetia conflict"