Cases will need to be brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) within four months of the last decision obtained at national level, instead of six, pursuant to a new Protocol amending the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) that was adopted by the Committee of Ministers this week.

Furthermore, following this reform, cases will be required to meet a higher admissibility threshold. In particular, cases that have not been duly considered by national courts will be considered inadmissible if the Court considers that the human rights violations complained of did not cause a significant disadvantage to the applicant.

The doctrine developed by the European Court of Human Rights that states should be granted some discretion in the interpretation and application of the rights of the Convention (margin of appreciation) will be enshrined in the text of the ECHR.

The Protocol will be open for signature on 25 June and the amendments will enter into force once all 47 states party to the ECHR have ratified the Protocol.

These measures were severely criticised by the Conference of International NGOs of the Council of Europe during the negotiations of the Protocol. The NGOs considered that there should not be additional admissibility requirements and that reducing the time limits for making an application would not allow for sufficient time to prepare applications properly and would discriminate against socially vulnerable applicants. According to the Conference, the incorporation of the principles of subsidiarity and margin of appreciation into the Convention would signify a restriction of the Convention rights and also be in flagrant contradiction to the spirit and the Preamble of the Convention which, precisely, recognises that a common understanding and observance of human rights is needed.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 24 May 2013
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