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Interaction between the European Court of Human Rights and the CEPEJ

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) is celebrating its fifth anniversary. It is therefore still a young institution within the Council of Europe. However, it is striking to note how much work it has done in such a short time and the way in which many people both within and outside the Council already regard it as one of the organisation’s leading bodies.

Since taking office as President of the European Court of Human Rights, I have sought to achieve synergy with the various parts of the Council of Europe: the Secretary General, the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Commissioner for Human Rights. I also wish to co-operate closely with committees of experts, especially in the field of justice.

In this connection, the work done by the CEPEJ is absolutely vital. First of all – and this is obviously a point of particular importance to me – the CEPEJ was set up to help relieve the Court’s caseload by offering member states effective solutions that obviate the need for applications.

There is a close link between the work done by the CEPEJ and the Court’s own work. High numbers of rulings against given states often indicate the existence of serious structural problems which undermine the credibility of the countries’ judicial systems. All the various problems have a direct impact on the operation of our Court, as they result in thousands of cases being lodged in Strasbourg. By helping member states to make their judicial systems operate more effectively, the CEPEJ helps to ease the burden on the Court. I urge states which the Court rules against to turn to the CEPEJ more frequently so that it can help them improve their inadequate systems.

Any reform of judicial systems requires evaluation of how they operate. That is exactly what the CEPEJ does in its evaluation exercise focusing on European judicial systems. The aim of the exercise, which has been widely publicised, is to help states learn the necessary lessons and improve their judicial systems.

For its part, our Court can only rule on a case-by-case basis and does not set out to reform member states’ judicial systems. What therefore can it do in this respect? An initial answer clearly lies in the pilot judgments procedure applied for the first time in the Polish cases. There are also other possibilities, however, and we are constantly looking into ways of improving our working methods.

The Court has already cited the work of the CEPEJ in some of its judgments. That is most remarkable for such a young institution. In the section on the improvement of domestic remedies for redressing violations of the Convention in its opinion on the Group of Wise Persons’ report, the Court indicated that the CEPEJ’s work should be supported and followed up. That demonstrates the great store we set by the initial work it has done. Encouraging member states to avoid violations of the rights enshrined in the Convention wherever possible and to provide redress for any violations themselves is a vital task and I should like to praise the absolutely crucial role played here by the CEPEJ.

Jean-Paul Costa
President of the European Court of Human Rights