The Council of Europe says states across the continent last year continued to make “progress” on implementing judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) despite the coronavirus pandemic.
But it stressed that further efforts are needed to tackle issues such as ill-treatment or deaths caused by security forces and poor conditions of detention, as well as a “growing number of cases concerning abusive limitations on rights and freedoms.”
The assessment was part of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' annual report for 2020 on the execution of ECHR judgments.
States with the highest total number of new cases last year were Russia (218), Turkey (103), and Ukraine (84), followed by Romania (78) and Hungary (61).
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These countries also had the highest number of pending cases at the end of 2020: Russia (1,789), Turkey (624), Ukraine (567), Romania (347), and Hungary (276).
The states over which the ECHR awarded the most “just satisfaction” to applicants were Romania ($43.9 million), Russia ($13.4 million), Italy ($6 million), Montenegro ($5.4 million), and Moldova ($4.9 million).
Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said in a statement that the report shows that member states take their obligations to implement judgments from the Strasbourg-based court “very seriously, even in difficult circumstances."
However, Buric noted that “many important judgments have been outstanding for several years and a small number of high-profile cases are not being resolved quickly enough.”
“Our member states have a duty to implement ECHR judgments promptly and fully. This is not a kind request -- it is a binding requirement,” she insisted.
According to the report, 983 cases were closed by the Committee of Ministers in 2020, which marked the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, as a result of steps taken by the relevant member states.
At the end of the year, 5,233 cases had yet to be fully implemented by the member states involved -- among the lowest counts since 2006.
The report states that 581 payments of “just satisfaction” to applicants, awarded by the ECHR, were made on time in 2020, while the Committee of Ministers was still awaiting confirmation of payment in 1,574 cases at the end of December.
Among the most significant cases that the committee was able to close in 2020 were three cases regarding abusive limitations of the rights to liberty and security in Azerbaijan, and a case concerning voting rights in local elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
But the report cautions there is “not a time for complacency” because “serious challenges continue to be raised in the context of the execution of many cases.”
It cited an interstate case opposing Georgia and Russia, a “larger number” of individual applications linked to post-conflict situations or unresolved conflicts, and “many long-standing systemic and structural problems" concerning in particular "ineffective investigations" into ill-treatment or death caused by security forces and poor conditions of detention.