Our Message:

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Help turn judgments into rights.

Judgments are only the beginning of a journey to get better human rights protections.

Your involvement could make all the difference to making sure this happens. This could be by pushing a case forward, calling for better government plans, and by preventing cases from being closed too early.

Let’s start with an example to see why this is so important.

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Case in point

In 2005 the authorities in Chișinău, Moldova, banned a march planned by an LGBT organisation, to deliberately discourage LGBT rights being promoted in public. In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights held that the ban breached the right to free assembly and said that it had been discriminatory.

The Moldovan government then submitted an Action Report, essentially to say that the incident was a one-off. It stated that the organisation had been allowed to freely assemble since the incident in question, that their rights had been successfully strengthened by legislation, and that the Council of Europe should end supervision under Enhanced Procedure.

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Reality check

In reality, there was still a huge problem with LGBT assembly in Moldova. Marches kept getting banned. Those that did go ahead had to be abandoned due to the threat of violence and the absence of police protection. The government was wrong: public demonstrations were still impossible.

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The case continues

Fortunately, the Council of Europe was made aware of this, because the NGO made submissions to the Committee of Ministers. This said what needed to happen: steps to allow marches to practice that went beyond superficial legal changes. It told the real story of what was going on. Crucially, the NGO also carried out advocacy at the national level to promote implementation of the judgment.

These activities had three impacts, which serve as a useful example of what can be achieved by work on the implementation of judgments.

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1) Setting the agenda for reforms

In the Moldovan case, the proposals the NGO made had to be taken up by the government to properly address the problem. Reforms included better training for public officials, judges and police; the right to appeal bans on marches in good time; and a fair process in the judicial supervision of their right to free assembly.

This is an example of how NGOs - through engagement with national authorities and submissions to the Council of Europe - can influence the reform agenda in the implementation of judgments.

This can make all the difference in ensuring that steps are taken that really make a difference.

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2) Prevent early case closure

In this case, the government had claimed the problem had been addressed. It called for the case to be taken out of the enhanced procedure of review, which would have reduced the level of supervision and may have led the case to be closed very soon. NGO submissions prevented that from happening - and the case stayed open for another five years.

When governments report on what has happened since the events in a judgment, they can provide misleading information and wrongly call for supervision of the case implementation to be diminished or closed completely.

By making Rule 9 submissions to the Council of Europe, NGOs can provide an alternative account of what is really going on. This can mean that cases are kept open when problems still continue.

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3) Push change forward

In order for actual changes to result from a ECtHR judgment, reforms have to pushed forward not merely in Strasbourg, but crucially at the national level.

Reforms can be pushed forward by anyone who has influence or can create it. This includes media organisations, professional groups, politicians, judges, community organisations and activists. NGOs can play a vital role in bringing together such groups and providing them with the information and co-ordination necessary to affect change.

In the Moldovan case, the NGO pushed for real changes that had been proposed in the reform agenda.

In May 2018, for the first time an LGBTI protest was carried out in full in Chișinău. There are still considerable problems with LGBTI protest in Moldova, but serious progress has been made.

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Over to you

Everyone can help work towards the proper implementation of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.

NGOs, NHRIs and international bodies can make submissions to the Council of Europe about what needs to be done (known as “Rule 9 submissions”).

Just as importantly, anyone can help push forward change in their country. Media, community organisations, politicians, judges and activists can help campaign for reforms to happen in practice.

The European Implementation Network is here to help in that process.