Human rights cases have 46-year backlog in EU

The European Court of Human Rights is facing a huge case backlog and at its current pace would need 46 years to rule on all complaints, it was revealed today.

The court, underfunded and lacking judges, is struggling with almost 80,000 cases, some of them pending from the mid-1990s, according to the court’s annual survey.

Last year, the court issued 1,503 verdicts and threw out more than 27,000 complaints.

Turkey was the worst offender, with its government found guilty of human rights violations in 319 cases in 2007, notably concerning the right to a fair trial and the right to liberty and security. Russia followed with 175 cases involving rights violations.

Four countries, Russia, Turkey, Romania and Ukraine, accounted for more than half of the court’s outstanding cases reflecting their citizens’ lack of trust in national courts.

As a final appeals court for European citizens, the Strasbourg-based court hears cases challenging national courts’ decisions that plaintiffs claim infringe on the 1949 European Charter of Human Rights, which applies in all European countries but Belarus.

Implementing the European court’s rulings, however, can sometimes take years, as the court cannot directly enforce compliance.

The court, overseen by the Council of Europe, has become popular with citizens of Eastern European and Balkan countries, where judicial systems are still influenced by politicians and prone to corruption.

Its budget for 2007 was €48.2m which was inadequate for dealing with the deluge of cases, according to Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, whose country holds the rotating Council of Europe presidency.

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