Current issues and common challenges for the protection of human rights in Europe, Africa and the Americas

EIN Co-Director Anne-Katrin Speck and EIN Vice Chair, Professor Philip Leach (Middlesex University London, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre), participated in a Conference entitled ‘Current issues and common challenges for the protection of human rights in Europe, Africa and the Americas’, which took place at Travers Smith in London on 14 June 2019. The Conference, which was co-organised by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, the Human Rights Implementation Centre at Bristol University, and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, brought together leading figures from the three regional systems as well as international academics and practitioners.

Challenges relating to the implementation of the judgments and decision of the commissions and courts from the three regional human rights system was a thread that ran through the day-long discussions. The Conference provided a welcome opportunity for comparative review and dialogue, which revealed that implementation challenges stemmed, in part, from the supranational systems’ limited capacity to discern and assess steps towards (or steps going against) compliance with a ruling. In Europe, for instance, a team of only 39 lawyers within the Department for the Execution of Judgments deal with some 5,500 cases pending execution (Donald, Long and Speck, forthcoming). This precludes nearly any possibility for the DEJ to conduct its own in situ fact-finding, and highlights the importance of civil society actors stepping up and bringing shortcomings in the implementation process to the Committee of Ministers’ attention. 

The role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was at the heart of a presentation by EIN Co-Director Anne-Katrin Speck, who set out the key principles for effective advocacy for ECtHR judgment implementation. In an ideal-type scenario, she ventured, NGO involvement aimed at effective ECtHR judgment implementation

·        starts early (specifically, already at the litigation stage);

·        comes in the form of repeated engagement;

·        is built on coalitions between NGOs and other pro-implementation actors (who could be other NGOs, media actors, NHRIs, conscientious parliamentarians or state officials); and

·        is conducted domestically and through the Strasbourg system.


Anne demonstrated that, regrettably, reality does not match this ambition. Domestic advocacy for judgment implementation would still appear to be in its infancy in most places. This has led EIN to launch an open call for contributions aimed at collecting best practices that will feed into a new EIN resource on domestic advocacy. She also emphasised the need to reverse the downwards trend in the number of so-called ‘Rule 9’ submissions to the Committee of Ministers, which NGOs and national human rights institutions can use to ‘put the record straight’, refute inaccurate claims by governments that implementation had been successful, and call for heightened scrutiny by the Committee of Ministers.

Anne’s presentation concluded with a call for concerted efforts to facilitate civil society involvement in implementation. She urged NGOs to start identifying priority areas for engagement, by mapping the pending leading cases against their country and matching them with the thematic areas they are already working on. NGOs should moreover mobilise other civil society actors to form ‘implementation advocacy coalitions’, and seek out conscientious actors within state authorities to get them to support the cause.

Lastly, it was incumbent of the Council of Europe to undertake a series of measures to make the implementation process truly inclusive, including the following:


EIN would like to thank the co-conveners, Anthony Wenton, Dr Annelen Micus, Professor Clara Sandoval-Villalbe and Professor Rachel Murray, for the opportunity to inject a civil society perspective into that day’s debates.