Presidency of the Court

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President Robert Spano

President Robert Spano was born in Reykjavik in 1972.

He graduated with a Candidatus Juris Degree in Law from the University of Iceland in 1997. He subsequently read for a Magister Juris Degree in European and Comparative Law at the University of Oxford (University College) graduating in 2000 with distinction. At Oxford, Robert Spano was awarded the Clifford Chance Prize (proxime accessit) for his scholastic achievements as well as the Civil Procedure Prize.

After graduating in 1997, Robert Spano was appointed Deputy District Court Judge in the District Court of Reykjanes, serving in that role until 1998 when he became a Legal Advisor in the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Iceland. After his post-graduate studies at Oxford University, he was appointed Special Assistant to the Ombudsman serving in that role until 2004.

From 2004 to 2013, Robert Spano was a full time legal scholar in the Law Faculty of the University of Iceland, first an Associate Professor of Law and then, from 2006, a Professor of Law, serving as Vice-Dean of the Faculty from 2007-2010 and then elected Dean from 2010 until his election as a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights in 2013. He has written extensively in the fields of statutory interpretation, human rights law, constitutional law, as well as criminal law and criminal procedure. Robert Spano has published three books and approximately 80 articles and book chapters. He is an acknowledged expert in the field of digital rights, the internet and business and human rights having lectured widely on these topics in recent years.

From 2009 to 2010, Robert Spano took leave of absence as a Law Professor and was provisionally appointed Parliamentary Ombudsman of Iceland by the Presidium of Parliament. He was again appointed Parliamentary Ombudsman in 2013 and served in that role before taking up his office in Strasbourg on 1 November 2013.

Robert Spano chaired various commissions and expert committees in Iceland. He drafted numerous bills adopted by Parliament, primarily in the field of criminal law. He was appointed Chairman of the Standing Committee of Experts on Criminal Law of the Ministry of Justice in 2003-2008 and again in 2011-2013. In 2007, the Prime Minister of Iceland appointed Robert Spano as Chairman of a Special Commission entrusted with investigating human rights abuses in municipal and state child care institutions from 1947-1992. In 2011, the General Assembly of the State Church of Iceland appointed him Chairman of its Commission mandated to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by the former Bishop of Iceland. Robert Spano, an expert on children's rights, was an expert to the Lanzarote Committee of the Council of Europe in 2012 and also the Icelandic member of the European Committee on Crime Problems of the Council of Europe from 2012-2013. In 2012, he was appointed Iceland's ad hoc judge in the EFTA Court.

Having been elected a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights on 25 June 2013, Robert Spano began his nine year mandate on 1 November of the same year. He served as President of Section from 1 May 2017 until 30 April 2019 and as Vice-President of the Court from 5 May 2019 until 17 May 2020. He was President of the Court from 18 May 2020 to 31 October 2022.

 Full CV

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President of the ECHR

The plenary Court elects its President for a period of 3 years.

The President directs the work and administration of the Court. He represents the Court and, in particular, is responsible for its relations with the authorities of the Council of Europe. The President presides at plenary meetings of the Court, meetings of the Grand Chamber and meetings of the panel of 5 judges.

 Rules of Court - Presidency

Videos of the President

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Artificial Intelligence Conference


President Robert Spano recorded a message to Ministers on the occasion of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society to be held online on 10 and 11 June 2021. The theme of the conference will be Artificial intelligence – Intelligent politics -  Challenges and opportunities for media and democracy.

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25th anniversary of Japan’s observer status at the CoE


Message from President Robert Spano to mark the 25th anniversary of Japan’s observer status at the Council of Europe.


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Press conference 2021


President Robert Spano held a press conference on 28 January 2021. It was streamed live on Internet.

The President of the Court gave an overview of the Court’s activities in 2020 and presented the statistics for the past year. Accompanied by Marialena Tsirli, Registrar, and Abel Campos, Deputy Registrar, he then took questions from journalists.

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Freedom of expression and the ECHR


On 5 May 2021, at the Kristiansand European Conference on Support for democracy and human rights in the time of the Pandemic, President Spano set out the ECHR’s current case-law on freedom of expression.

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Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary: a Eropean Perspective


The webinar in the form of a conversation on the theme The Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary: a European Perspective took place on 1 March 2021, with notably the participation of President Robert Spano, keynote speaker.

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Videoconference for iCourts


President Robert Spano gave a videoconference presentation on the theme of The principle of judicial independence on 29 May 2020. Organised by iCourts at the University of Copenhagen, this event was broadcast live, with the President of the ECHR subsequently answering questions from an online audience.


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High-level meeting - European Network of National HR Institutions


Video message from President Spano on the occasion of the high-level meeting on The Council of Europe’s Recommendation on the development and strengthening of effective, pluralist and independent national human rights institutions, organised by the ENNHRI (European Network of National Human Rights Institutions) on 26 and 27 April 2021.

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XVIIIth Congress of the ECC


President Robert Spano delivered the speech Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: The relationship of international, supranational and national catalogues in the 21st century on the occasion of the XVIIIth Congress of the European Constitutional Courts. The video of the event is now available.

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All official visits

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All Speeches