Human Rights - a joint mission | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.02.2012
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Europe

Human Rights - a joint mission

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) prosecutes human rights violations worldwide. This has other international courts eager to find out how the ECHR operates.

Column plastered with mail

Human rights concerns pour in from all over the world

Every year, thousands of complaints detailing human rights abuses land in the mailroom at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). They are distributed to the court's various departments, which are already inundated with cases - although the ECHR is only responsible for the 47 states party to the Council of Europe.

But the ECHR has a good reputation worldwide and is not only the recipient of legal mail - year after year, numerous delegations of lawyers from all over the world travel to Strasbourg to observe the court at work.

Flocking to Strasbourg

Nicolas Bratza

Bratza welcomes colleagues from accross the globe

Many observers come from Council of Europe member states like Turkey, court president Nicolas Bratza told Deutsche Welle. Visitors have included judges from the South Korean and the Japenese Supreme Courts, as well as delegations of judges from the Brazilian High Court. Even African courts travel to Strasbourg - for instance the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR), Bratza added.

The ECHR also has a working relationship with the African Human Rights Commission in Gambia, which works hand-in-hand with the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, said Patrick Titiun, who heads the office of the Strasbourg court's president.

The AfCHPR in Arusha, Tanzania was founded in 2004, and its first judges were sworn into office in 2006 - with the first rulings coming three years later. The court does not meet on a permanent basis; there have only been a few dozen sessions over the years. It is thus a very young court that is responsible for an area marked by political and economic insecurities and riddled with human rights violations of the most elementary kind.

Difficult comparison

Comparing the African and the European courts is difficult, according to Patrick Titiun. "But the countries are very interested in the ECHR's achievements. The ECHR is renowned worldwide."

Many years ago, the ECHR also had to fight to establish its rights, position and reputation: the court was founded in 1959, but only started to hold sessions on a permanent basis beginning in 1998. The court's jurisdiction grew very slowly and at the start, individual citizens were not yet allowed to hand in complaints concerning human rights violations.

Transferring knowledge

Protesters in Costa Rica

Protest at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica

The exchange of information and "best practice" are at the core of the court's cooperation with other lawyers, Patrick Titiun said. "They want to know how we deal with the large number of complaints. But they are also interested in our case law," he said.

The transfer of knowledge is no one-way street, either, said court president Bratza.

At a meeting with the president of the Inter-American Human Rights Court, he said the Strasbourg lawyers learned about the problems South American human rights activists face: cases of missing persons, abuse or killings.

Patrick Titiun said it is impressive when people with little financial means try to forge ahead with human rights issues. "Then we come to the conclusion that we share the same values even though we live on different continents," Titiun said

Author: Daphne Grathwohl / db
Editor: Gabriel Borrud

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