Reform of the Court
History of the Court’s reforms
Since the Court opened in 1959, the member States of the Council of Europe have adopted a number of protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights with the aim of improving and strengthening its supervisory mechanism. In 1998 Protocol No. 11 thus replaced the original two-tier structure comprising the Court and the Commission on Human Rights, sitting a few days per month, by a single full-time Court. This change put an end to the Commission’s filtering function, enabling applicants to bring their cases directly before the Court.
A second major reform to address the considerable increase in the number of applications and the Court’s backlog was brought about by the entry into force of Protocol No. 14 in 2010. This Protocol introduced new judicial formations for the simplest cases and established a new admissibility criterion (existence of a “significant disadvantage” for the applicant); it also extended the judges’ term of office to 9 years (not renewable).
Since 2010, three high-level conferences on the future of the Court have been convened to identify the means to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of the Convention system. These conferences have, in particular, led to the adoption of Protocols 15 and 16 to the Convention.
Protocol No. 15, adopted in 2013, inserts a reference to the principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation into the Convention’s preamble; it also reduces from 6 to 4 months the time within which an application must be lodged with the Court after a final national decision.
2013 has also seen the adoption of Protocol No. 16, which will allow the highest domestic courts and tribunals to request the Court to give advisory opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention or the protocols thereto. Protocol No. 16 is optional.
Reports, notes and opinions
Protocol No. 16 to the Convention
Protocol No. 16 to the Convention will allow the highest courts and tribunals of a State Party to request the Court to give advisory opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention or the protocols thereto.
Protocol No. 16 will enter into force when 10 States have signed and ratified it, but only in respect of the States in question.
Opinion of the Court (May 2013)
Protocol No. 15 to the Convention
Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention introduces a reference to the principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation. It also reduces from six to four months the time-limit within which an application may be made to the Court following the date of a final domestic decision.
Protocol No. 15 will enter into force as soon as all the States Parties to the Convention have signed and ratified it.
Opinion of the Court (February 2013)
Note on the reform work
The purpose of this note is to present the situation in the Court with particular regard to the reform work set in motion after the Interlaken Declaration and Action Plan, and the follow-up Conferences in Izmir and Brighton.
The Court's advisory jurisdiction
Review of the Working Methods of the Court
Report by the Right Honorable The Lord Woolf (December 2005)
Conference in Oslo
A conference on the long-term future of the Court was held in Oslo on 7 and 8 April 2014.
Judges, government experts and researchers took part in the conference, which forms part of the Court’s reform process.
Speech by the President (in French only)
Brighton Conference on the future of the Court
A high level Conference on the future of the Court was organised by the United Kingdom in Brighton on 18-20 April 2012, during the British Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Plenary Court has adopted a preliminary opinion for the preparation of the Conference.
* Translations into Italian were commissioned by the Italian Government
Interlaken Conference on the future of the Court
President Costa, accompanied by a delegation of judges and members of the Registry, travelled to Interlaken (Switzerland) on 18 and 19 February 2010 to attend a Ministerial Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights. A joint declaration was adopted at the close of the Conference.