Friday, 9 June 2017

New System for Single-Judge Decisions

The European Court of Human Rights announced last week that it has adopted, as of this month, a new procedure which allows more detailed reasoning to be given in single-judge decisions. Ever since the single-judge procedure was introduced through Protocol 14 in 2010, the Court had been applying a very summary procedure to deal with the large backlog of tens of thousands of cases. Both by practitioners and academics this state of affairs, born out of necessity, has often been criticised as it gave no clarity or reasoning to people whose applications were rejected by single-judge decisions.

Two years ago, the State Parties at the High Level Conference in Brussels on the Convention, welcomed the Court's intention "to  provide brief reasons for the inadmissibility decisions of a single judge, and invites it to do so as from January 2016." It has taken a bit longer, but now that - in the Court's own words - "the backlog has been eliminated", more detailed reasoning will be given, but still not in all cases. This is how the procedure will unfold:

"Instead of a decision-letter, applicants will receive a decision of the Court sitting in single judge formation in one of the Court’s official languages and signed by a single judge, accompanied by a letter in the relevant national language. The decision will include, in many cases, reference to specific grounds of inadmissibility. However, the Court will still issue global rejections in some cases, for example, where applications contain numerous ill-founded, misconceived or vexatious complaints."

This still may not satisfy everyone, but it at least come along some of the road. As the court indicated in its press release, it has to "strike a balance between addressing a legitimate concern about the lack of individualised reasoning and maintaining an efficient process for handling inadmissible cases so as not to divert too many resources from examining potentially well-founded cases." The very fact that this is now possible, should be a good sign.

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