Alternative dispute resolution procedures before the European Court of Human Rights – The state agent, a member of the executive branch, tasked with representing the respondent state – Judicial and legislative branches of the respondent state limited or bound by concessions by the state agent – Convention framework effectively increases the power of the executive branch to the detriment of the other branches of government in the respondent state – Tension with national separation of powers – Possible solutions on a national and international level
Constitutional and Administrative Law, University of Antwerp, Research Foundation Flanders, Belgium.
PhD Assistant in Constitutional and Administrative Law, University of Antwerp, Belgium.
1 For a general overview see Dragos, D. and Neamtu, B. (eds.), Alternative Dispute Resolution in European Administrative Law (Springer 2014) p. 605 .
2 For example, see Nabatchi, T. and Stanger, A., ‘Faster? Cheaper? Better? Using ADR to Resolve Federal Sector EEO Complaints’, 73 Public Administration Review (2013) p. 50 .
3 For example, see Urwin, P., et al., ‘Quantitative evidence in the evaluation of ADR: the case of judicial mediation in UK Employment Tribunals’, 23 The International Journal of Human Resource Management (2012) p. 567 .
4 Fisher, R. and Ury, W.L., Getting to Yes. Negotiating Agreement without Giving In (Houghton Mifflin Company 1991) p. 56–57 .
5 Explanatory report to Protocol 14 ECHR, §93.
6 Myjer, E., ‘It is Never Too Late for the State – Friendly Settlements and Unilateral Declarations’, in Caflisch, L. (ed.), Human Rights – Strasbourg views (Engel Verlag 2007) p. 309 at p. 315; Ang, F. and Berghmans, E., ‘Friendly Settlements and Striking Out of Applications’, in Lemmens, P. and Vandenhole, W. (eds.), Protocol No. 14 and the Reform of the European Court of Human Rights (Intersentia 2005) p. 89 at p. 92; Vande Lanotte, J. and Haeck, Y., Handboek EVRM. Deel 1 [Handbook ECHR. Part 1] (Intersentia 2005) p. 369–397 .
7 Leach, P., Taking a Case to the European Court of Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 63 ; Keller, H., et al., Friendly Settlements before the European Court of Human Rights. Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press 2010) p. 162 .
8 Haeck, Y. and Burbano Herrera, C., Procederen voor het Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens [Litigating before the ECtHR] (Intersentia 2011) p. 341 .
9 In 2018, 3,048 applications were ‘struck out’ in decisions following friendly settlements and unilateral declarations. See Analysis of Statistics 2018, ⟨www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Stats_analysis_2018_ENG.pdf⟩, visited 28 January 2019; Dubois, C. and Penninckx, E., La procédure devant la Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme et le Comité des Ministres (Wolters Kluwer 2016) p. 267 . See the press release of 18 December 2018, in which the Court announced a new practice to facilitate the use of friendly settlements: ⟨www.dirittoegiustizia.it/allegati/Cedu_comunicato.pdf⟩, visited 17 April 2019.
10 Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 276.
11 Art. 62, 2 Rules of ECtHR; Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 271; Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 39–40; Weber, G., ‘Who Killed the Friendly Settlement – The Decline of Negotiated Resolutions at the European Court of Human Rights’, 7 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L. J. (2007) p. 215 at p. 225; Vande Lanotte and Haeck, supra n. 6, p. 373.
12 Explanatory report to Protocol 11 ECHR, §93.
13 Art. 39, §1 ECHR and Art. 62, 1 Rules of ECtHR. European Court of Human Rights, Unilateral declarations: policy and practice (September 2012) p. 2.
14 Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 38; Haeck and Burbano Herrera, supra n. 8, p. 341.
15 Art. 39, §4 ECHR. See, inter alia, Rainey, B. et al., The European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2017) p. 57–59 .
16 Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 281; Bychawska-Siniarska, D., ‘Unilateral Declarations: The Need for Greater Control’, European Human Rights Law Review (2012) p. 673 at p. 673; Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 103 and 111.
17 Glas, L., ‘European Convention on Human Rights’, 30 NQHR (2012) p. 495 at p. 497.
18 ECtHR 6 May 2003, Case No. 26307/95, Tahsin Acar v Turkey, §76; Leach, supra n. 7, p. 72.
19 See, for a discussion of these factors, Glas, L., ‘Unilateral declarations and the European Court of Human Rights: Between efficiency and the interests of the applicant’, 25 Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law (2018) p. 607 at p. 612–613.
20 Tahsin Acar v Turkey, supra n. 18, §77.
21 Mowbray, A., Cases, Materials and Commentary on the European Convention on Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 51 .
22 Tahsin Acar v Turkey, supra n. 18, §85.
23 Art. 62A, §1 Rules of Court. See previous case law, e.g. ECtHR 20 October 2005, Case No. 37930/02, Bazhenov v Russia, §38; Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 288.
24 Woolf, Lord, ‘Review of the Working Methods of the European Court of Human Rights’, 26 Human Rights Law Journal (2005) p. 447 at p. 458; Ang and Berghmans, supra n. 6, p. 102.
25 Art. 62A, §2 Rules of ECtHR.
26 Glas, supra n. 17, p. 496.
27 For example: ECtHR (Dec) 24 November 2015, Case No. 18453/09, Ivashchenko v Ukraine; ECtHR 17 January 2008, Case No. 75025/01 a.o., Aleksentseva and others v Russia, §§15–17. See also Rule 43, §5 of the Rules of Court.
28 For a succinct yet clear evaluation of the friendly settlement procedure, see Rozakis, C., ‘Unilateral declarations as a means of settling human rights disputes: a new tool for the resolution of disputes in the ECHR’s procedure’, in Kohen, M.G. (ed.), Promoting Justice, Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Through International Law. Liber amicorum Lucius Caflisch (Martinus Nijhoff 2007) p. 1003 at p. 1004–1005.
29 Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 283; Myjer, supra n. 6, p. 313.
30 Occasionally, the Court expressly accepts lower compensation. For example, ECtHR (Dec) 9 June 2015, Case No. 75187/12, Zarkovic and others v Croatia, §20.
31 Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 65; Myjer, supra n. 6, p. 317; Weber, supra n. 11, p. 250 and 253.
32 Unilateral declarations always contain an explicit acknowledgment of a human rights violation. Friendly settlements usually have an implicit acknowledgment of a human rights violation. Nevertheless, even friendly settlements’ acknowledgments are sometimes made explicitly. Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 44 and 105.
33 Weber, supra n. 11, p. 251; Dembour, M.-B., ‘Finishing Off Cases: The Radical Solution to the Problem of the Expanding ECtHR Caseload’, European Human Rights Law Review (2002) p. 604 at p. 618.
34 Tahsin Acar v Turkey, supra n. 18.
35 ECtHR 26 June 2001, Case No. 37453/97, Akman v Turkey.
36 ECtHR 26 March 2002, Case No. 25754/94, Haran v Turkey.
37 ECtHR 9 April 2002, Case No. 27601/95, Toğcu v Turkey.
38 Tahsin Acar v Turkey, supra n. 18.
39 Ang and Berghmans, supra n. 6, p. 94–96; De Schutter, O., ‘Le règlement amiable dans la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme: entre théorie de la fonction de juger et théorie de la négociation’, in Verdussen, M., et al. (eds.) Les droits de l’homme au seuil du troisième millénaire mélanges en hommage à Pierre Lambert (Bruylant 2000) p. 225 at p. 226.
40 Galanter, M., ‘Why the “Haves” Come out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change’, 9 Law & Society Review (1974) p. 95 at p. 97.
41 Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 145–146.
42 Bychawska-Siniarska, supra n. 16, p. 675. Contra: Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 68.
43 Art. 43 of the ECHR. However, it is highly exceptional for a case to be referred to the Grand Chamber since referral is contingent upon the acceptance by a panel of five judges.
44 Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 51.
45 For a similar argument see Bychawska-Siniarska, supra n. 16, p. 673 and 677. Sometimes the Court does refuse a declaration because of the contentious nature of the case. For example: ECtHR (Dec) 11 April 2013, Case No. 20372/11, Vyerentsov v Ukraine, §45.
46 Glas, supra n. 17, p. 499. A good example of this is the case of Basra v Belgium. In it, several organisations submitted a third-party intervention explaining the structural problems concerning Belgian migration law that had been brought up by this case; yet it was ultimately settled with a unilateral declaration. For the third party intervention see ⟨https://hrc.ugent.be/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/tpi-Basra.pdf⟩, visited 3 June 2019.
47 The unilateral declaration is more problematic than the friendly settlement in light of the separation of powers doctrine; in the former case, the respondent state must make a strong recognition of the human rights violation in a public and adversarial judicial procedure. Admittedly, however, during negotiations in a friendly settlement procedure, an applicant can, for example, also obtain commitments to change legislation. However, given the confidential nature of the procedure, this puts less pressure on the other branches of government.
48 Similarly, the report of the written comments by the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights for the Grand Chamber case of Jeronovic v Latvia, ⟨www.hfhrpol.waw.pl/precedens/images/Amicus_unilateral_declarations.pdf⟩ 7, visited 17 April 2019. The notion of separation of powers as used in this article is not the same as the ‘balance of powers’ between the respondent state and the applicant, which is also important in the field of alternative dispute resolution. See Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 96.
49 See de Secondat, Charles-Louis, de La Brède, Baron de Montesquieu, et, L’Esprit des Lois (A. Belin 1817), book XI, chapter VI, 130. Here he declared that ‘All would be lost if the same man or the same body of principal men […] exercised these three powers: that of making the laws, that of executing public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or the disputes of individuals’.
50 Kyritsis, D., Where Our Protection Lies (Oxford University Press 2017) p. 211 .
51 In recent doctrine, scholars increasingly examine whether the separation of powers doctrine can usefully be transposed to the international or European level. On this topic see Mendes, J. and Venzke, I. (eds.), Allocating Authority Who Should Do What in European and International Law? (Hart 2018).
52 See, for example, Kosar, D., ‘Nudging Domestic Judicial Reforms from Strasbourg: How the European Court of Human Rights shapes domestic judicial design’, 13 Utrecht Law Review (2017) p. 112 at p. 113; Le Bonniec, N., La procéduralisation des droits substantiels par la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (Nemesis 2016) p. 359–362 ; Ziemele, I., ‘Conclusions’, in Motoc, I. and Ziemele, I. (eds.), The Impact of the ECHR on Democratic Change in Central and Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press 2016) p. 491 at p. 494; Souvignet, X., La prééminence du droit dans le droit de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (Bruylant 2012) p. 349–353 .
53 Similarly, see Council of Europe, The role of government agents in ensuring effective human rights protection. Seminar organised under the Slovak chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, ⟨rm.coe.int/16806f151b⟩, visited 17 April 2019, p. 81, reference 29. Here, a government agent mentioned that it might be better to start using the term state agent, rather than government agent, because it better encapsulates the fact that it is the duty of all the state’s bodies to rectify a Convention violation. See also Rozakis, supra n. 28, p. 1014. Here he mentions that ‘[The unilateral declaration] is part and parcel of the exercise of the state’s sovereign power to redress a wrong done to an individual through its own means’ (emphasis added).
54 In the general scholarly work on this topic, this idea is never put into question. For example, see Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 97; Aurescu, B, ‘Organizational and Procedural Aspects of the Institution of State Agent before the ECHR and ICJ: Some Romanian Perspectives’, 6 Chinese Journal of International Law (2007) p. 363 at p. 368.
55 Amerasinghe, C., Principles of the Institutional Law of International Organizations (Cambridge University Press 1998) p. 126 .
56 Locke, J., The Second Treatise on Government (Awnsham Churchill 1689) §§145–147.
57 See Dubois and Penninckx, supra n. 9, p. 97; Aurescu, supra n. 54, p. 371. See also Lambert-Abdelgawad, E., ‘General Overview of Member States’ Practices’ in Enhancing national mechanisms for effective implementation of the European convention on human right , ⟨rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId0900001680598bd8⟩, 9, visited 17 April 2019.
58 See, more elaborately on this, Aust, A., Modern Treaty Law and Practice (Cambridge University Press 2007) p. 183–195 .
59 Qualitative data reveals the autonomous power of state agents despite their being theoretically subordinate to the executive: Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 169. Here, the Polish state agent held: ‘In my opinion, it is not a policy of the State to conclude friendly settlements. It is rather a choice of the Government Agent. In my country, politicians are only interested in very important cases. I have an important margin of discretion in the resolution of routine cases: I can either wait for the judgment or conclude a friendly settlement’.
60 More broadly, see Jenart, C., ‘The Binding Nature and Enforceability of Hybrid Global Administrative Bodies’ Norms Within the National Legal Order: The Case Study of WADA’, 24 European Public Law (2018) p. 411 at p. 418–419.
61 Still, in Germany the ECtHR will principally be followed: Bundesverfassungsgericht 14 October 2004 (Az.: 2 BvR 1481/04, § 30) and in the United Kingdom a court or tribunal must take into account the ECtHR (Human Rights Act 1998, s 2(1)(a)).
62 See, inter alia, ECtHR 6 October 2005, Case No. 74025/01, Hirst v United Kingdom. The UK succumbed to this pressure to a certain extent: Committee of Ministers 2 November 2017, no. DH-DD(2017)1229, Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
63 It is ordinarily not the task of the European Court to review national legislation in abstracto but rather to examine the manner in which the legislation was applied to the applicant in the particular circumstances. For example, see ECtHR (GC) 4 December 2015, Case No. 47143/06, Roman Zakharov v Russia, §164; ECtHR (GC) 8 July 2003, Case No. 30943/96, Sahin v Germany, §87. However, sometimes the Court does provide such an abstract review. See ECtHR 29 May 2017, Case Nos. 57818/09 and 14 others, Lashmankin and others v Russia, §430.
64 Several examples of such cases can be cited: ECtHR (dec) 11 October 2011, Case No. 50648/10, Hemlich v Poland. In this case, the Polish government declared that the national practice of using assessors in courts was in violation of the right to an independent judge. Before, the Polish Constitutional Court had been critical about the use of assessors and the European Court had already found a violation of Art. 6 in this respect in ECtHR 30 November 2010, Case No. 23614/08, Henryk Urban and Ryszard Urban v Poland. For other examples see ECtHR (Dec.) 26 March 2013, Case Nos. 25714/04, 1057/07, 48342/06 and 876/06, Petrescu and others v Romania. Here, the unilateral declaration concerned a Romanian law that placed an excessive burden on landlords in terms of their ability to dispose of their property. The Court had already found that this law violated Art. 1 Protocol 1 in ECtHR 2 November 2006, Case Nos. 71351/01 and 71352/01, Radovici and Stanescu v Romania; ECtHR 8 March 2007, Case No. 27086/02, Popescu and Toader v Romania; ECtHR (Dec.) 27 March 2012, Case No. 38508/06, Plakhov v Ukraine. In this case, the Ukrainian government declared that the Code on Administrative Offences violated the Convention because it did not provide for a right to appeal. Such a violation had already been found in ECtHR 6 September 2005, Case No. 61406/00, Gurepka v Ukraine. For further examples, see ECtHR (Dec.) 8 June 2010, Case No. 11367/06, Popescu v Moldova; ECtHR (Dec.) 1 December 2009, Case No. 67300/01, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Moldova v Moldova; ECtHR (Dec.) 24 June 2008, Case Nos. 61878/00 and others, Heron v UK.
65 It should be noted that, in this situation, the state agent must make sure that the existing case law can scrupulously be applied to the case at hand. Even a minor factual discrepancy between the pending case and the case law can make the former unsuitable for a friendly settlement or unilateral declaration.
66 Because of the admissibility criteria in Art. 35 of the Convention and the obligation for the applicant to exhaust the effective domestic remedies, there will virtually always be a national court involved in the procedure that leads to the case before the European Court. However, depending on the case at hand, it is possible that the legal question for the Court pertains to the competence of either of the political branches of government.
67 Court of Cassation (Belgium) 1 April 2008, P.07.1829.N/1, not published. Copy on file with authors.
68 ECtHR (dec.) 13 March 2018, Case No. 47739/08, Goyens and Robben v Belgium.
69 Ibid., §9. Translation by authors.
70 Court of Cassation (Belgium) 27 May 1971, N.V. Fromagerie Franco-Suisse Le Ski, Arr. Cass. (1971) p. 959.
71 The term ‘rules of criminal procedure’ is used in its broadest possible sense here. From the text of the judgment, it remains unclear whether the Court of Cassation had relied on the Belgian code of criminal procedure or on its own internal rules of procedure. It should be noted, however, that in both instances it is up to the Court of Cassation to decide on how these rules should be applied, rather than the state agent.
72 The Belgian government agent is a functionary under the authority of the Minister of Justice. See supra n. 57.
73 Raz, J., The Authority of Law (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 10 ; Smilov, D., ‘The judiciary: the least dangerous branch?’, in Rosenfeld, M. and Sajo, A. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 859 at p. 866.
74 By way of recent examples: ECtHR (dec.) 17 April 2018, Case Nos. 53321/11 and others, Keloyev and others v Russia; ECtHR (dec.) 12 April 2018, Case No. 67393/17, Sekeres v Slovakia; ECtHR (dec.) 10 April 2018, Case No. 5860/09, Trutko v Russia; ECtHR (dec.) 13 March 2018, Case No. 57715/13, Sikmanovic v Montenegro
75 ECtHR (dec.) 16 January 2018, Case No. 42249/15, Jedruch v Poland; ECtHR (dec.) 11 July 2017, Case No. 16103/15, Zelawski v Poland; ECtHR (dec.) 8 November 2016, Case No. 49424/12, Skomorochow v Poland.
76 ECtHR (dec.) 12 December 2017, Case No. 10034/09, Flis v Poland.
77 It is longstanding case law of the Court that for a tribunal to be independent, it should be free of outside pressure, in particular from the other branches of government. See for example: ECtHR (GC) 6 May 2003, Case Nos. 39343/98, 39651/98, 43147/98 and 46664/99, Kleyn and others v the Netherlands, §190; ECtHR 26 February 2002, Case No. 38784/97, Morris v UK, §58.
78 Lavrysen, L., ‘System of restrictions’, in Van Dijk, P., et al. (eds.), Theory and Practice of the European Convention on Human Rights (Intersentia 2018) p. 307 at p. 316; Stone-Sweet, A. and Mathews, J., ‘Proportionality Balancing and Global Constitutionalism’, 47 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law (2008) p. 68 at p. 75.
79 By way of example, concerning Art. 8: ECtHR (dec.) 6 October 2015, Case No. 78306/12, Cirillo v Germany; Concerning Art. 9: ECtHR (dec.) 21 April 2014, Case No. 72874/01, Union of Jehovah’s Witnesses and others v Georgia; Concerning Art. 10: ECtHR (dec.) 14 June 2017, Case No. 69775/11, Ilaslan v Turkey; concerning Art. 11: ECtHR (dec.) 2 November 2010, Case No. 32118/06, Asociatia Pentru Lichidarea Consecintelor Pactului Molotov-Ribbentrop v Moldova.
80 ECtHR (dec.) 20 February 2018, Case No. 1443/11, Piotrowicz v Poland.
81 De Schutter, O. and Tulkens, F., ‘Rights in conflict: the European Court of Human Rights as a pragmatic institution’, in Brems, E. (ed.), Conflicts between Fundamental Rights (Intersentia 2008) p. 169 at p. 169.
82 Again, other examples can be found as well: ECtHR (dec.) 26 September 2017, Case No. 32418/11, Rzadzinski v Poland; ECtHR (dec.) 12 November 2013, Case No. 60551/11, Swiech v Poland; ECtHR (dec.) 13 December 2011, Case No. 38005/03, Gazda v Poland.
83 See more elaborately: T. Barkhuysen and M. Van Emmerik, ‘Right to an effective remedy’, in Van Dijk et al., supra n. 78, p. 1035.
84 Art. 13 ECHR can be seen as a ‘structural human right’. See Varol, O., ‘Structural Rights’, 105 The Georgetown Law Review (2017) p. 1001 .
85 See, for recent examples involving unilateral declarations: ECtHR (dec.) 3 July 2018, Case No. 2122/16, Navrotki v The Republic of Moldova; ECtHR (dec.) 7 June 2018, Case Nos. 73626/16 and others, Barinov and others v Russia; ECtHR (dec.) 24 May 2018, Case Nos. 31164/15 and 31193/16, Spridonov and Mikhaylov v Russia; ECtHR (dec.) 7 September 2017, Case No. 45037/14, Isupov v Ukraine; ECtHR (dec.) 17 September 2013, Case No. 13143/03, Van Galen and others v The Netherlands; ECtHR (dec.) 16 June 2009, Case No. 10470/07, Mol v The Netherlands; ECtHR (dec.) 3 March 2009, Case No. 28692/06, Voorhuis v The Netherlands. For an example of a friendly settlement: ECtHR (dec.) 27 September 2018, Case Nos. 6244/15 and others, Szomolya and others v Hungary.
86 A. Bradley and C. Pinelli, ‘Parliamentarism’, in Rosenfeld and Sajo, supra n. 73, p. 650 at p. 666.
87 For an example, see Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 177. In an interview, a state agent mentioned that he discusses draft legislation with the Registry of the Court. When the interviewer mentioned that there was a risk that the draft legislation might be amended by parliament and asked how he dealt with that risk, the government agent answered that he then tells parliament that he already has an agreement with the Court and that it would constitute a scandal if parliament were to break it.
88 See ECtHR (dec.) 23 September 2010, Case No. 20364/07, Marangos v Cyprus; ECtHR (dec.) 9 September 2010, Case No. 45463/08, Vassilas v Cyprus; ECtHR (dec.) 27 May 2010, Case No. 9095/08, Facondis v Cyprus; ECtHR (dec.) 27 May 2010, Case No. 59571/08, Kyprianou v Cyprus; ECtHR (dec.) 27 May 2010, Case No. 29512/08, Televantou v Cyprus; ECtHR 25 March 2010, Case No. 29373/08, Makrides v Cyprus. In all these cases, the unilateral declaration was made before the law had been passed by the Cypriot legislature.
89 ECtHR (dec.) 2 February 2016, Case Nos. 9230/09 and 40732/10, Yemelyanov and Bushmanov v Russia.
90 ECtHR (dec.) 30 September 2014, Case No. 39726/04, Molashvili v Georgia.
91 ECtHR (dec.) 12 January 2016, Case No. 77029/12, Duminica v The Republic of Moldova.
92 Le Sueur, A. et al., Public Law: Text, Cases and Materials (Oxford University Press 2016) p. 474–479 .
93 See supra n. 57.
94 Bradley and Pinelli, supra n. 86, p. 664.
95 D. Halberstam, ‘Federalism: Theory, Policy, Law’, in Rosenfeld and Sajo, supra n. 73, p. 576 at p. 597.
96 See also EComHR (dec.) 9 July 1992, Case No. 14093/88, Moosmann v Austria. In this case, the Austrian state agent (a member of the federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs) reached a friendly settlement which held that one of the Länder had to pay part of the compensation. Similarly, one could also imagine a situation in which the state agent, under the auspices of the national executive, admits to a Convention violation by a local authority or a non-public body that exercises public authority. Here, it is also possible that the agent concedes a violation in the field of competence of either another national minister or – in federal states – another level of government.
97 EComHR 17 February 1965, Case No. 1727/62, Boeckmans v Belgium.
98 For example: ECtHR (dec.) 20 June 2017, Case Nos. 53491/10 and others, Zaluska, Rogalska and others v Poland, §25; ECtHR (dec.) 13 February 2007, Case No. 30357/03, M. v UK; ECtHR 20 June 2002, Case No. 35076/97, Ali Erol v Turkey, §20; ECtHR 3 May 2001, Case No. 32438/96, Stefanov v Bulgaria, §14.
99 In all cases referred to in the previous reference, the Court accepted the settlement or declaration.
100 For example: ECtHR (dec.) 15 October 2013, Case No. 36398/08, Romana de Televiziune v The Republic of Moldova. Here, the friendly settlement was concluded between ‘the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the relevant authorities of the Republic of Moldova, taken as a whole and individually’ and the applicant.
101 Donald, A. and Leach, P., Parliaments and the European Court of Human Rights (Oxford University Press 2016) p. 30 .
102 Sweden provides a good example of one kind of measure that could be taken to prevent separation of powers issues within the executive. Sweden’s friendly settlements contain a clause that holds that the ‘settlement is dependent upon the formal approval of the Government at a Cabinet meeting’. For example: ECtHR (dec.) 4 December 2012, Case No. 49801/08, Lönn v Sweden. Think, also, of a duty for the executive to report (yearly) to the legislature on any friendly settlements and unilateral declarations: Donald and Leach, supra n. 101, p. 30.
103 Jackson, V., Constitutional Engagement in a Transnational Era (Oxford University Press 2010) p. 67 .
104 ECtHR (dec.) 7 July 2018, Case No. 47232/17, Basra v Belgium, §13.
105 ECtHR (GC) 8 April 2004, Case No. 71503/01, Assanidze v Georgia, §§146–147.
106 Bychawska-Siniarska, supra n. 16, p. 675; Weber, supra n. 11, pp. 234–235.
107 Bychawska-Siniarska, supra n. 16, p. 674. In a similar sense: Glas, supra n. 17, p. 498; Ang and Berghmans, supra n. 6, p. 96.
108 This would imply that the Court structurally excludes certain matters from alternative dispute resolution. By analogy, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights rejects alternative dispute resolution in cases regarding the right to life. Ang and Berghmans, supra n. 6, p. 96.
109 See, respectively, Art. 39, §1 ECHR and Art. 37, §1 in fine ECHR.
110 See Roblot-Troizier, A., ‘Un concept moderne: séparation des pouvoirs et contrôle de la loi’, Pouvoirs (2012) p. 89 at p. 101. She holds that ‘the separation of powers is consubstantial to the safeguarding of rights because no right can be guaranteed without separation of powers’.
111 When alternative dispute resolution encroaches upon legislative rather than judicial competence, it is less clear whether the Court can rely on this provision. Because of this, it might be advisable to amend Art. 37 to enable it to continue the examination of the application if respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the protocols thereto or other shared European constitutional principles or values so require. This way, the Court can explicitly take constitutional principles such as the separation of powers into account when deciding whether to accept a unilateral declaration. In a recent press release, a possibility has been created to take constitutional principles such as the separation of powers into account. The press release states that the registry will not propose a friendly settlement in cases ‘where for any specific reason it may be inappropriate to propose a friendly settlement’. See supra n. 9.
112 ECtHR 13 September 2018, Case Nos. 58170/13, 62322/14 and 24960/15, Big Brother Watch and Others v the United Kingdom, § 306 and cited cases.
113 See, for the most recent examples: Order of the Vice-President of the Court in Case C-619/18 R Commission v Poland; CJEU 25 July 2018, C-216/18, LM.
114 ECtHR (GC) 5 July 2016, Case No. 44898/10, Jeronovičs v Latvia, §25.
115 Court of Cassation (Belgium) 9 April 2008, Journal des Tribunaux (2008) p. 403.
116 Van Drooghenbroeck, S., Le droit international et européen des droits de l’homme devant le juge national (Larcier 2014) p. 337–353 .
117 ECtHR 29 June 2010, Case No. 665/08, Hakimi v Belgium; ECtHR 25 July 2013, Case No. 504/08 Castellino v Belgium.
118 Belgian Parliamentary Preparation, Verslag van de procureur-generaal bij het Hof van Cassatie aan het Parlementair Comité belast met de wetsevaluatie Overzicht van de wetten die voor de hoven en de rechtbanken moeilijkheden bij de toepassing of de interpretatie ervan hebben opgeleverd (17 October 2014, Chamber: 0435/001; Senate: 6-39/1) p. 29–30; Belgian Parliamentary Preparation, Wetsontwerp houdende wijzigingen van het strafrecht en de strafvordering en houdende diverse bepalingen inzake justitie (23 October 2015, Chamber 1418/001) p. 105–107.
119 Art. 116 Belgian federal statute of 5/11 February 2016.
120 Glas, supra n. 19, p. 607–630; Keller et al., supra n. 7, p. 96–97.
121 Paragraph 54, b) of the Copenhagen Declaration, ⟨rm.coe.int/copenhagen-declaration/16807b915c⟩, visited 17 April 2019. The Court itself seems to be positive about this, as well. See paragraph 25 of the Court’s opinion on the draft Copenhagen Declaration, ⟨www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Opinion_draft_Declaration_Copenhague%20ENG.pdf⟩, visited 17 April 2019. See also the press release ‘ECHR is to test a new practice involving a dedicated non-contentious phase’, supra n. 9.
* Constitutional and Administrative Law, University of Antwerp, Research Foundation Flanders, Belgium.
** PhD Assistant in Constitutional and Administrative Law, University of Antwerp, Belgium.
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