by Ray Fleming

Britain currently holds the presidency of the Council of Europe which is the parent body of the European Court of Human Rights.
The government is using its influential position to get agreement among the 47 members of the Council for a number of reforms in the way the Court operates; many of these are the result of the UK's own experience with the Court, especially in cases relating to immigration and terrorism.

One of them, the deportation of Abu Qutada, is causing the Home Secretary, Theresa May, serious trouble at this time because of a mix-up over dates.
Essentially the government thinks the Court takes on too much work and believes that many of the human rights cases it handles could just as well be dealt with at national level.

In a speech yesterday the president of the Court, the British judge Sir Nicolas Bratza, poured cold water on the British proposals. This will add to the right wing political and media calls for the UK to leave the Court.

Yesterday the front page of The Times had a large photograph of the Court's judges, including Sir Nicholas Bratza. It was captioned, “Europe's court jesters” -- an indication of the mood of the moment but also an unwarranted insult to a Court which is the last recourse to justice for many millions of people in Europe.


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