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Inter-State Applications under the European Convention on Human Rights: Strengths and Challenges

Published on January 24, 2020        Author:  and

 

This post provides, in broad strokes, an overview of human rights litigation via the inter-State application procedure under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as its strengths and challenges. In the last seven decades, States have referred 24 situations to the former Commission and to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Certainly, compared to some 750,000 individual applications, the number looks small. However, the inter-State applications have had an impact for a large number of individuals. Many of the cases also had important political ramifications and shaped the present supervisory architecture of the Convention.

The ECtHR full list of inter-State cases reveals a considerable rise of applications, with currently eight pending sets of proceedings: the 2008 armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation is before the Court in Georgia v Russia II. The case has reached the merits stage, the admissibility decision was taken back in 2011. Georgia v Russia (IV) was lodged in 2018 and is pending at the admissibility stage. It relates to the alleged deterioration of the human rights situation along the boundary between Georgian-controlled territory and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ukraine has, since 2014, lodged a total of eight inter-State application against Russia before the ECHR, five of which are currently pending in Strasbourg. In those cases, no formal admissibility decision has been rendered yet. In the case of Ukraine v Russia(re Crimea) the Court had a hearing on the admissibility in September 2019. Slovenia brought a case against Croatia in 2016 that concerns the consequences of the breakup of Former Yugoslavia. In that case, the Court will render an admissibility decision after it held a hearing in June 2019, as anticipated on this blog by Igor Popović. Notably, two of the sets of cases involve Russia and human rights in situations of sovereignty disputes and armed conflict. Overall, the thrust of work in these inter-State proceedings still lies ahead of the Court.

State-to-State litigation based on human rights treaties is on the upswing also in the framework of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is currently dealing with three inter-State communications, as David Keane reported on this blog. In the most recent December session, the Committee decided that it has jurisdiction regarding the inter-State communication submitted by the State of Palestine against Israel.

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