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Monday, April 25, 2011

Aegean coastal city to host key meeting on European court

Aegean coastal city to host key meeting on European court

25 April 2011, Monday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA

The Aegean city of İzmir, which the government recently said will become one of the centers of diplomacy in Turkey, will on Tuesday and Wednesday host the High Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Earlier this month, during a visit to İzmir where he visited some of the more than 300 wounded Libyans who were brought to the city for medical treatment as part of a large-scale humanitarian operation, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu praised İzmir’s hospitality as he also announced that the Foreign Ministry’s third representative office will be launched there soon after Ankara and İstanbul. As for the key conference, it will be opened tomorrow with a speech by Davutoğlu, who is the host of the event in his capacity as the outgoing chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE).

Following Davutoğlu, Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the CoE; Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); Jean-Paul Costa, president of the ECtHR, and Thomas Hammarberg, the CoE’s commissioner for human rights, will also address the conference on its first day. Justice and foreign ministers and other senior officials from 47 CoE member and observer states will attend the conference, together with representatives of specialized organizations and institutions.

The Strasbourg court covers 47 countries and some 800 million people. Despite considerable efforts by the ECtHR to streamline internal procedures, its formidable caseload still threatens to paralyze the entire court system. In order to facilitate reform of the court, Switzerland hosted a ministerial conference of the 47 CoE member states in Interlaken on Feb. 18-19, 2010.

As a major step towards following up and maintaining the momentum of the process of reform of the supervisory mechanisms set up by the European Convention on Human Rights, a process launched at the Interlaken Conference, the İzmir conference has three main goals arising from the need to ensure the effectiveness of these mechanisms: to conduct an assessment as of today of the impact of Protocol No. 14; to take stock of what has been achieved by the reform process launched in Interlaken; and following a thorough reflection, lend impetus for pursuing that reform.

British Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, whose country is heavily involved in efforts for the court’s reform, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has a highly problematic relationship with the Strasbourg-based court, are among those who have confirmed their participation. Earlier this month, the ECtHR rejected an attempt by the British to overturn a ruling that prisoners should get to vote, giving Britain six months to draw up proposals for changing the law. In London, the ruling infuriated both the government and a clear majority of the House of Commons.

Also earlier this month, in a complaint filed by the Republican Party of the Russian Federation, the court has ruled that Russian regulations governing political parties infringe on the rights of freedom of assembly and association. Again, earlier this month, the court rejected an appeal by the Russian government against its earlier ruling that the banning of gay pride marches in Moscow is illegal. Thus, several recent rulings by the court against the British and Russian governments lend the İzmir conference further importance for these two countries.

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