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Concern at proposals for the European Court of Human Rights to charge fees

Amnesty International has expressed concern at the recent support given by European ministers to proposals that individuals should pay to file an application with the European Court of Human Rights.While Amnesty International welcomed the commitment of Ministers to enhance protection of human rights in their countries, the organization said it is concerned at support expressed for measures that would impede people's access to the Court."A proposal to charge fees for filing an application, which received some support, could curtail access to the Court for people in Europe who are unable to pay the Court fees. Equality before the law and access to an effective remedy are rights that states simply cannot sell out." said Jill Heine Amnesty International's Legal Advisor for Europe."Some ministers recommended that states provide more resources for the Court's operation and we are hopeful that member states will support this call," said Jill Heine.Ministers of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe met on 18-19 February in Interlaken Switzerland  and adopted an Action Plan aimed at addressing the Court's massive backlog and caseload. The European Court of Human Rights is the ultimate court of redress for individuals claiming violations of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.  Since being set up in 1959, the Court has delivered some 10,000 judgments ruling that governments have failed to honour their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Its current resources are stretched by an increasing backlog of cases (more than 110,000 are now pending) and the large number of applications it receives (more than 50,000 last year).The Action Plan adopted at Interlaken includes recommendations to states to take measures to ensure enhanced respect for human rights and effective remedies for human rights violations at home.  If states fully respected human rights the court would not be facing such a overwhelming backlog of cases. It also recommends measures that states, the Committee of Ministers (the main decision making body of the Council of Europe) as well as the Court itself should take to reduce inadmissible applications and repeat violations of the Convention, and ensure that the Court can render judgments on human rights more quickly where possible."We're hopeful that the Interlaken Conference and the Action Plan adopted will serve as a catalyst for better human rights protection throughout Europe and that the Court will be enabled to continue its essential function as a guarantor of human rights of the 800 million people in Europe. Whether this comes to pass will depend on action taken and decisions made by states in the next two years," said Jill Heine, Legal Advisor at Amnesty International.