In late March 2018, the European Implementation Network (EIN) put out a call for applications from civil society organisations for its second regional training workshop on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The training took place at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg from 21 to 22 June. The first workshop was held from 2 to 3 February at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw.
The training was conceived based on the fact that civil society organisations have a critical role to play in the process that underpins the supervision of the implementation of ECtHR judgments by the Committee of Ministers – the Council of Europe’s decision-making body responsible for the judgement implementation process. The access that is afforded to NGOs and other civil society organisations is made possible under Rule 9.2. of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers.
Yet there is little readily accessible information on how the judgement execution process works and how civil society organisations can engage to best effect. The result is that this powerful mechanism for implementing human rights judgments is very underutilised. The total number of NGO submissions is consistently low, normally in the range of 70-90 each year. In contrast, there are well over 800 government action plans and action reports being submitted annually to the Committee of Ministers. As a result, there is not enough non-governmental analysis and perspective being presented to the Committee of Ministers in order for it to make a balanced assessment on the status of implementation of many important ECtHR cases.
This lack of knowledge and engagement by NGOs and other civil society organisations needs to be understood in the larger context of the many, many thousands of ECtHR cases still pending implementation or only partially implemented each year. In 2017, 7,500 cases were pending. Of these approximately 1,400 cases are so-called “leading cases” that require the putting in place of broader measures (so-called “general measures”) in the form of domestic legal, policy and institutional reforms needed to prevent repetition of the violation in question in the future. It is on these cases where civil society input in particular is required in order to help societies realise real positive change in the overall context of promoting and protecting human rights in Europe.
From the many applications received, 22 lawyers and other experts from NGOs and other civil society organisations from across Europe were selected for the training workshop. Those other qualified applicants not selected due to limited space may be considered for similar training in the future as well as for thematic training on implementation that EIN expects to conduct on topics such as asylum and migration, fair trials and others.
Other workshop participants and presenters included EIN secretariat staff and Bureau members, a Head of Division in the Council of Europe’s Department for the Execution of Judgments of the ECtHR, a Legal Adviser of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights in France, a Head of Division as well as an Adviser to the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, and others.
Workshop participants covered a number of topics over the course of the one-and-a-half days of interactive training. These included the various facets of the judgment execution process, the role of NGOs in the process, best practices on how to prepare Rule 9.2 submissions and advocacy strategies and tactics both in Strasbourg and at the national level. The workshop combined presentations by experts on how to engage effectively in the judgment execution process; sharing of learning by participants who have already engaged with implementation; and group exercises to help participants develop the content and recommendations in submissions they expect to prepare in the future for the Committee of Ministers.
NB: All gallery pictures from EIN