CM/Inf(2004)8 Final 7 April 2004
Human rights working methods -
Improved effectiveness of the Committee of Ministers' supervision of execution of judgments
Information document1 prepared under the responsibility of the Norwegian Delegation
1.1 The appendices of this document contain the guidelines that have been developed through the contributions of delegations on the initiative of the vice-chairman. The aim of the guidelines is to improve the working methods of the DH meetings in order to enhance the effectiveness of supervision, for example by making more rational use of meeting time and thereby allowing for optimal use of resources.
1.2 The guidelines are developed taking into account the general context of the need to guarantee the long term effectiveness of the ECHR system and are based on the assumption that the duty placed upon the Committee of Ministers by Article 46 of the ECHR may only be fulfilled through an efficient supervision of the execution of judgments. Another basic premise has been that they shall be in full compliance with the existing Rules of the Committee.
1.3 It is also recalled that efforts to improve the efficiency of supervision without sacrificing quality must respect certain basic principles:
i) The collective nature of the Committee of Ministers' role
ii) Equality of treatment
iv) Even if certain summary measures are needed in order to improve efficiency, it remains paramount that supervision of execution is treated as a co-operative task and not an inquisitorial one.
2. Lines of Action
2.1 In order to improve the effectiveness of supervision, execution time tables will be established at an early stage in the supervision process and included in easily available Status Sheets. These time tables will provide reference points that will structure the execution process and allow for the development of adequate responses in cases where there is a potential of delays in execution.
2.2 The use of Status Sheets as a new tool should be introduced in order that supervision be carried out through a set of agreed steps established at the beginning of the supervision process.
2.3 The use of objective criteria will furthermore guide the chairman when deciding what cases to propose for debate among the cases that are on the agenda for a meeting. It is expected that these measures will assist the execution process and make it possible to supervise the progress made more effectively, notably by omitting debating the execution of cases involving only simple or uncontroversial measures.
2.4 In order to improve the collective nature of supervision, an interactive, computer-based documentation system should be set up, making it possible for users (delegations and capitals) to have access to broader, more organised and more flexible information resources through the new Status Sheet.
2.5 These lines of action should only be implemented if the Committee is fully satisfied that transparency continues to be guaranteed and the possibility of examining many cases with succinct plenary supervision without debate has no negative impact on the speed of execution.
2.6 It is envisaged that meeting documentation will consist of the Status Sheets of the cases that are on the agenda put together in two different documents:
1. In the Agenda, where all cases for examination are listed,
2. In the Order of Business (Fahrplan), where all cases for debate are contained.
2.7 Delegations and members of the public wishing to have further information on the status of execution would have access thereto through the Status Sheets and the linked new documentation system, according to existing rules.
2.8 Awaiting the setting up of the new system meetings will continue to be based on the present annotated agenda but the Secretariat is invited to continue the implementation of the new working methods to the extent possible with existing resources, notably with a view to the regular presentation also of a Fahrplan with basic information on cases for debate for each meeting.
Deputies are invited to
1. take note of the Guidelines for the Chair on the conduct of the Ministers' Deputies' human rights meetings as they appear in Appendix I of document CM/Inf(2004)8 Final;
2. instructed the Secretariat to implement progressively the new working methods as described in appendices II and III. At the same time, the information technology needs necessary in that respect should be ascertained without delay;
3. agree that a review of the working methods and the Guidelines should take place by the end of the year (December 2004), on the basis of the experience gained in the meantime.
Guidelines for the Chair on the conduct of Committee of Ministers Human Rights meetings
1. Criteria for Debate
1.1 In order to ensure that the Committee of Ministers uses its meeting time mainly for cases or issues in which a collective debate would be beneficial to the process of execution, either for individual cases or in the interest of the execution process as a whole, the Chair will be guided by the following non-exhaustive list of criteria, in proposing which cases arise for debate at the plenary session.
1. The applicant's situation because of the violation warrants special supervision;
2. The case marks a new departure in case-law by the European Court;
3. It discloses a potential systemic problem which is anticipated to give rise to similar cases in future;
4. The case is between Contracting parties;
5. There is a difference of appreciation between the Secretariat and the respondent state concerning the measures to be taken;
6. There is a significant delay in execution with reference to the timetable set out in the Status Sheet
7. The case is requested for debate by a delegation or the Secretariat, subject to the provision that if the State Parties concerned and the Secretariat object there shall be no debate.
1.2 Cases in the first four categories should be put in the agenda before the end of the initial phase; the other cases as needed.
2. Code of good practice
2.1 To achieve the aims of the new working methods, the Secretariat, the respondent state and other members of the Committee – should adhere to the following code of good practice, supervised by the Chair, in all of the abovementioned cases, including inter-state cases in view of the specificities of the debates in such cases.
· Submit comments and information within specified deadlines, in order to allow for effective preparation of the meetings. To the extent that relevant information is available, submissions should be made as soon as possible, bearing in mind the Secretariat's obligation to prepare documents for the meeting in due time. The failure of a respondent State to meet precise requirements set by the Committee of Ministers should not cause a delay of debates.
· Identify clearly in advance the issues or specific topics to be debated. As the status sheet will reflect the decisions made at the previous meetings, it will provide information on issues to be debated, thereby setting the framework for the debates and assisting in keeping them focussed.
· There should be no abuse of meeting time. Speakers should as far as possible stick rigorously to the issues. To the largest extent possible information should be provided in writing. Participants should avoid addressing arguments already rejected by the Court.
The Secretariat's preparation of the Committee of Ministers Human Rights meetings
1. The Status Sheet
1.1 It has been recognised by the Deputies that in order to achieve the aims of the guidelines as set out above, the Committee needs precise information on:
i) Action which has already been taken, and when
ii) Action to be taken
iii) The time-frame according to which such action is to be taken
1.2 Subsequently, in order to follow the progress achieved, the Deputies need continuous information on the implementation of the action plan.
1.3 These elements should be introduced in the Status Sheet and other relevant documents and provide a complete picture of the state of execution in each case at every moment. If this information is set out in a pointed manner in a matrix – the Status Sheet – it will be easier for the Deputies to follow the state of execution of all cases. The Status Sheet will thus allow the Committee among other things to better evaluate its own performance and ensure that execution takes place within a reasonable time.
1.4 The Status Sheet should contain notably the following information (see appendix III):
1. Case title, ref. no., judgment dates,
2. Essentials on state of execution
3. Reasons for debate with reference to agreed criteria
4. Articles violated
5. Essentials of the judgment
6. Checklist of measures with dates and basis for measure
7. Explanation of differences of appreciation or reasons for delay
8. Proposed action by the Committee of Ministers
1.5 The first five points will be filled in immediately. The last three will be set out as the execution process evolves. Other fields as necessary.
2.1 The Secretariat's preparation of cases for the Deputies should be as follows.
2.2 For each case the Secretariat will in the initial phase establish, in consultation with the authorities of the respondent state, the measures needed to be taken and a timetable indicating when they are expected to be taken. This information will then be entered in the Status Sheet.
2.3 It is recognised that there is a need for flexibility in the fixing of the time tables and that in fixing priorities due account has to be taken to the interests at stake for the individuals. Also the interest in rapidly preventing new applications to the Court following judgments revealing systemic problems must be taken into account.
2.4 The initial phase starts when the judgment is received by the Secretariat. The first action of the Secretariat will be to send a matrix model to the respondent state for completion, where appropriate with necessary explanations. Then the government will inform about planned action to be taken and a timetable. During the initial phase, which in normal circumstances should not last more than 6 months, the case will be put on the Deputies agenda, but only for information, not for examination. The idea is that the Respondent State and the Secretariat shall make use of this initial phase to have consultations on measures to be taken and to seek to clarify any possible differences of understanding. The outcome of the consultations will be one of the determining factors when deciding on whether or not the case could be examined without debate, see the guidelines of the Chairman. It should be noted that there should be little need for a debate if the case requires simple and uncontroversial measures.
2.5 The initial phase should be shorter in some cases. In cases where the applicant's situation due to the violation warrants special supervision, such as in the case of certain individual measures where the personal integrity of the applicant is at stake, the execution should be undertaken as quickly as possible i.e. at the first meeting after the judgment has been made. If consultations are required, they should be carried out urgently in order to obtain an early clarification on measures to be taken and the timeframe. Also other cases, notably those involving systemic problems capable of leading to great numbers of violations or very serious violations could also warrant a shorter initial phase.
2.6 It is envisaged that the Status Sheet will contribute to both transparency and a better control of the speed of execution by presenting all information regarding the most relevant aspects of the execution process in a short and summarised form. Each (group of) case(s) will have its own Status Sheet, which will be updated as the execution process proceeds. The measures and time- frame laid down in the Status Sheet will be at the basis of the subsequent monitoring activity by the Committee of Ministers.
2.7 After a certain period of monitoring, it will become clear whether the execution process will be finished in short term or not. This period can normally be expected to last around one year from the date the judgment becomes final. At the end of this period the Deputies should examine the manner in which to handle the case best for the future in order to ensure execution. The following typical situations could be envisaged (payment of just satisfaction and individual measures are presumed rapidly taken):
- If all execution measures have been taken the case should be closed with a final resolution;
- If all the general measures required have not been taken, but it is likely that they will be taken in the near future (6-12 months), the case may continue to be examined according to the normal time limits laid down in the Rules;
- If all the general measures required have not been taken and it is likely that they will take yet some time, the Committee should start examining the feasibility of setting the framework of the execution in a more robust manner by adopting an execution framework, in an appropriate form, permitting longer-term planning. The execution framework should normally provide for the resumption of the Deputies' examination when the measures awaited are likely to be adopted. It is understood that the Respondent State will continue to keep the Secretariat informed of developments so that the case may be put on the agenda if the premises on which the execution framework was based change in important respects.
3. Meeting documents
3.1 The Committee needs to ensure that it uses its limited debating time mainly for cases in which a collective debate would be beneficial to the process of execution, either for individual cases or in the interest of the execution process as a whole. The guidelines for the Chairman are intended to serve as pointers for the cases or issues meriting debate.
3.2 In order to take a position on the proposal in the Fahrplan for cases to be debated, there will be a need for delegations to have rapid access to concise information on the state of execution in the cases proposed for debate and to have the essential information on cases where no debate is envisaged.
3.3 The aim is to keep the format of all Status Sheets within one page. If, in more complex cases, there is a need to complement the information, such as a more elaborate presentation of the execution situation (including description of issues debated and positions), this limit can be exceeded. In these cases only the extended version of the Status Sheet will provide the complete presentation, but the (one page version) Status Sheet should provide the main elements of the information and at the same time serve as an "entrance door" to the complementary information. The Status Sheet will also contain (electronic) references to further documents such as information documents and correspondence and to the extent possible also to relevant primary sources (domestic legislations, judgments and other sources).
3.4 When the working methods are put in full use, there will be a Fahrplan issued in due time for each meeting, containing a compilation of status sheets for the cases to be debated. All cases to be examined will be listed in the Agenda, which should consist of the Status Sheets of those cases that are not presented in the Fahrplan. In complex cases, the extended version of the Status Sheet should be presented. These would include more detailed presentations of the execution situation and descriptions of controversial issues and positions taken. Apart from the Fahrplan, the meeting documentation may include other relevant documents needed, such as memoranda, other information documents and correspondence.
3.5 It is acknowledged that awaiting the setting up of the new system meetings will continue to be based on the present annotated agenda. However; the Secretariat is invited to continue the implementation of the new working methods to the extent possible with existing resources, notably with a view to the regular presentation of a Fahrplan (to the extent possible with full Status Sheets, but at least with basic information on the cases proposed for debate).
3.6 The importance of further improving transparency and thus public access to the documentation on execution, notably memoranda and other information documents, will have to be born in mind when developing the new system.
Sample status sheet for “Fahrplan” meeting 1807052