Britain pushes for European Court reform
Britain is trying to secure changes to the European Court of Human Rights that would restrict its role to to serious issues of principle, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said Saturday.
At the start of the month, Britain took over the six-month rotating chairmanship of the 47-member Council of Europe, which oversees the court.
It has since been lobbying other countries to support a change in the court's remit, to be struck at a conference in London next April.
"What we are trying to do is get the role of the court sorted out so that it deals with serious human rights issues of the kind that require an international court," Clarke told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
"We want the court back to its proper business as an international court which takes up serious issues of principle when a member state or its courts, or its parliament, are arguably in serious breach of the (European Human Rights) convention.
"To get any decision out of any international body usually takes at least 20 years," said Clarke, the British Cabinet's only noted Conservative europhile.
"You would take the first two years trying to agree to where to put the commas in the memorandum. (But) it's not like that.
"A lot of member states have been pushing for similar things, and a lot of them believe a British chairmanship is the best time to deliver it, and they think we're the best hope of drawing this to a conclusion."
The reforms would stop the court overruling British judges on immigration cases, Clarke said.
Reform would end a situation where "everybody who's just lost his arguments about deportation should be able to go there and get in the queue, wait a few years and get it all reheard again when he's lost the argument three times already" in Britain.
The supra-national European Court of Human Rights was set up in 1959 and is based in Strasbourg, on the French border with Germany.
The 47 member states of the Council of Europe are all party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
© 2011 AFP