Human Rights Court Must Ditch Frivolous Cases, Says Cameron

Article excerpt

Byline: Jason Groves Political Correspondent

EUROPE'S flagship human rights court is in danger of becoming a discredited 'small claims court', David Cameron will warn today.

The Prime Minister will travel to Strasbourg to call for fundamental reform of the controversial European Court of Human Rights.

He will declare that the court - once seen as a beacon of Europe's commitment to human rights - is becoming 'swamped' by thousands of vexatious cases.

Mr Cameron warns that the court, which has infuriated ministers by repeatedly interfering in British anti-terror and immigration law, should not 'undermine its own reputation' by reversing the decisions of courts in nations such as the UK where human rights are respected.

Britain is seeking to use its six-month presidency of the court to drive through sweeping reforms designed to reverse the flood of frivolous claims made in recent years - and help speed up deportation cases.

UK officials believe the court should focus on serious allegations of human rights abuses in some of the court's other 46 members, such as Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine.

They pointed out that 97 per cent of cases lodged against the UK have eventually been thrown out as inadmissible.

But, in a sign of the difficulty involved, the head of the court, British judge Sir Nicolas Bratza, yesterday fired a broadside at Mr Cameron over his criticism of the court, which is locked in a dispute with Britain over the right of prisoners to vote in elections.

Sir Nicolas said it was 'disappointing' to hear senior British ministers criticising the court for 'interference' in the UK's affairs. He said the criticism was 'not borne out by the facts', as the Strasbourg court had only found against the UK in eight cases last year.

He accused British ministers of 'misunderstanding' the court's role. He said it was 'particularly unfortunate' that prisoner voting 'has been used as the springboard for a sustained attack on the court and has led to repeated calls for the granting of powers of Parliament to override judgments of the court against the UK, and even for the withdrawal of the UK from the (Human Rights) Convention.'

Government sources pointed out that Sir Nicolas does not have a vote on whether the reforms to the court are approved. However, ministers do need to secure the unanimous approval of the court's other member states - a process that will require delicate diplomacy and take at least two years to complete. …