British proposal to reform the European Court of Human Rights

In a twelve-page document about the future of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Britain that currently holds the Council of Europe chair, is attempting to recruit ‘allies’ in its plan to reform the Strasbourg Court. Although the document describes the ECtHR as a “cornerstone of the convention system”, it criticises the current rules governing the relationship between Strasbourg and national courts. It proposes an expansion of what is known as the “margin of appreciation” (the way in which states may choose how to implement the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights), and it declares that national authorities are in principle better placed to apply the convention rights in the national context. Therefore, the role of the ECtHR should primarily be to ensure that national court decisions are within the margin of appreciation. According to Owen Bowcott (in his article in the Guardian 28/02/12), with this plan the British government hopes to avoid politically embarrassing judgments such as the Strasbourg Court’s refusal to allow the UK to deport the radical Islamist cleric, Abu Qatada.


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