On Friday, 19 February, at the Ministerial Conference on the future of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Interlaken, Switzerland, the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe issued a joint declaration (Interlaken Declaration [PDF]) on future reforms that should, among others, ease the growing caseload of the Court.

There are currently about 120.000 applications pending before the Court, of which more than 90 percent are inadmissible or have no legal basis, whereas about 50 percent of the admissable applications are 'repetitive cases'. The Court receives around 2000 new applications each month. Despite the increasing output of the Court the number of pending applications has been steadily growing and is likely to become unmanageable without implementation of further reform measures. The time it takes the Court to resolve a case is on average three to four years and without radical reform it may take even longer.

Protocol No. 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights which will enter into force on the first of June 2010, after the recent ratification by the Russian Federation, might offer some relief but is not considered sufficient to resolve the problems that the Court is facing, in particular, with regard to its backlog of pending applications and its continuously growing caseload.

At the Ministerial Conference, which intended to gather political support for the future course of the reform process, member states recognized the urgent need for additional measures. According to the joint declaration the measures are primarily aimed at reaching a balance between incoming and settled cases and both reducing the number of outstanding cases and the time it takes for the Court to adjudicate new cases, especially those involving serious violations of human rights. Also required are additional measures aimed at ensuring the rapid and full implementation of ECtHR judgments at the national level and the effectiveness and transparency of its supervision by the Committee of Ministers.

The Interlaken Declaration includes an Action Plan which describes the measures that need to be taken in order to achieve these aims and a timetable for their implementation.

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