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Monday, March 14, 2011

What happens when politicians clash with courts over human rights?

What happens when politicians clash with courts over human rights?

Friday 04 March 2011 by Jonathan Rayner

Sir Konrad Schiemann, a judge at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), arrived in the UK to deliver the present lecture, was ‘shocked by the political maelstrom’ that was then raging in our parliament and media.

The ‘maelstrom’ had been sparked by a diktat from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) telling the UK government to comply with its ruling that prisoners should be allowed to vote in elections.

Failure to comply would result in massive fines.

Senior politicians, Schiemann was aghast to note, were openly discussing paying the fine rather than obeying a diktat from a court to which the UK had willingly signed up.

More extreme still, some were urging the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) and, by extension, from the European Union (EU) itself.

According to Wikipedia...

European Court of Justice


It is the responsibility of the Court of Justice to ensure that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaties of the European Union and of the provisions laid down by the competent Community institutions. To enable it to carry out that task, the Court has broad jurisdiction to hear various types of action. The Court has competence, among other things, to rule on applications for annulment or actions for failure to act brought by a Member State or an institution, actions against Member States for failure to fulfil obligations, references for a preliminary ruling and appeals against decisions of the Court of First Instance

I wonder if the ECJ would entertain an action in relation to the ECtHR case Hirst v UK (No2)? Particularly, given that EU citizens in UK prisons are being denied the vote in the European elections. The ECJ has acceded to the European Convention, and Protocol 14 is part of the Lisbon Treaty. It would appear that there is a stalemate between the Council of Europe and the UK over the Prisoners Votes Case, and it may just be that the ECJ can break this stalemate?

Update: Example of a case decided under Article 259.

Spain -v- UK C-145/04

Spain took proceedings against the UK in respect of voting rights in European Parliament elections for commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar.

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