Non-Governmental Organisations

Recommendation adopted on 27 January 2011
CONF/PLE(2011)REC2

Reform of the European Court of Human Rights: say no to legal costs for applicants

The Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe,

    - Noting that one of the proposals concerning the reform of the European Court of Human Rights submitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe by the Steering Committee for Human Rights concerns requiring applicants to bear the costs of the proceedings to limit the number of ill-founded applications,

    - Agreeing in this respect with the position taken by several Council of Europe member states against this proposal,

    - Supporting the petition signed by numerous European NGOs,

    - Referring to the official statement made on its behalf by its President, Jean-Marie Heydt, at the Interlaken Conference, who said “We cannot accept the proposal that applicants should be required to bear the costs of proceedings, even for the sake of keeping the Court’s budget on an even keel”, because such a proposal would “place unacceptable restrictions on access by applicants to the Court and would accordingly be an intolerable source of discrimination”,

    - Reiterating the opposition to this measure expressed by its representatives and by Amnesty International to the bodies responsible for presenting proposals concerning the Court’s reform,

    1. Considers unacceptable the plan to require persons lodging an application with the European Court of Human Rights to bear the costs of the proceedings: this would be likely to curtail the right of individual application, the cornerstone of the European Convention on Human Rights. This unprecedented measure for a mechanism at universal or regional level would doubtlessly limit right of access to the Court.

    2. Believes that requiring applicants to bear the costs of legal proceedings would be contrary to the very nature of the Court. Doing justice is the Court’s business and it can in no way introduce into its proceedings the glaring injustice of a discrimination which would unable to pay the fees demanded. Such discrimination would not be sufficiently avoided by the use of the suggested heavy mechanism of financial assistance to applicants.

    3. Stresses the urgent need to reduce the number inadmissible applications submitted to the Court and endorses, inter alia, two of the relevant proposals: 

    - provide for financial penalties on respondent states in the case of repetitive applications;
    - supply, on a national basis, through National Human Rights bodies and associations dedicated to Human Rights, in the different languages of each country, user-friendly and comprehensive information on the criteria and conditions under which a case can be brought before the Court.

Consequently, the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe

    - Urges member states and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to reject the proposal that applicants should be required to bear the costs of proceedings before the Court,

    - Invites the INGOs of the Conference to make representations to their member states and the Committee of Ministers to ensure that such a discriminatory measure is not adopted.