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UK pushes for European Court of Human Rights overhaul

Ministers from 47 countries will meet later to discuss the UK's plans to limit the powers of the European Court of Human Rights.

A senior government official said reaching an agreement was "like herding cats", but added that he was "pretty confident" it was possible.

The UK has criticised some of the court's judgements, including giving prisoners the vote and deciding against the deportation of Abu Qatada.

The conference takes place in Brighton.

Prime Minister David Cameron wants the countries which use the court to limit its ability to overrule cases already determined by national courts.

He wants to enshrine the principle of "subsidiarity" in the Brighton Declaration, which it is hoped ministers will agree at the end of the two-day conference.

This would mean that courts in member states should make decisions on human rights cases which are not deemed appropriate for the European Court of Human Rights, based in the French city of Strasbourg, to handle.

The other main principle demanded by the UK is to allow a "margin of appreciation" - giving national governments greater leeway in applying the judgements of the court.

At the end of last year, judges in Strasbourg faced a backlog of nearly 152,000 cases, of which an estimated 90,000 will be categorised as "inadmissible".

The government wants to reduce that workload, but critics say this risks damaging access to justice in some member countries, including Russia and Ukraine.

But a government official told the BBC: "The whole purpose of the changes that we are making is to strengthen the convention system in relation to human rights.

"There's no-one arguing that the court needs much more cases."

The declaration must be agreed by the parliaments of all 47 member countries before coming into force. The UK government estimates this could happen within a couple of years.

The official said: "We are pretty confident that this will hold. It's complicated. It's really like herding cats, getting 47 members on to one side at the same time."

Many MPs oppose the recent decisions by the European court to prevent the deportation of the radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan and to allow UK prisoners the vote.

They argue it has gone too far in undermining national sovereignty and that some of its rulings could endanger security.

In a speech in January, Mr Cameron said he wanted to use the Brighton conference to bring in reforms to limit the court's ability to overrule cases already determined by national courts.

He said some rulings were having a "corrosive effect" on people's support for civil liberties.

But the Times newspaper has reported that a leaked draft of the communique to be agreed at the council meeting shows a dilution of UK plans to limit the court's scope to take cases already heard in national courts.

It would also reportedly limit the ability of states to ask the court for preliminary opinions in order to avoid many cases ever reaching Strasbourg.----


Added: Apr-19-2012 Occurred On: Apr-19-2012
World News
Tags: uk, tells, eu, human, rights, court, to, gtfo
Location: United Kingdom (UK/GB) (load item map)
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