Speaking at the annual press conference of the European Court of Human Rights on 26 January 2017, President Raimondi took stock of the year 2016 and reported that the volume of incoming cases, after falling over the previous two years, had considerably increased.
This had largely been the result of the situation in three countries: Hungary and Romania, for complaints about detention conditions, and Turkey, especially since the dramatic attempted coup d’état in July 2016. While acknowledging the difficult situation in that country and underlining the importance of the most recent measures to allow judicial oversight of decisions relating to the state of emergency, the President made a point of commending the key role played in that context by the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, who had maintained an ongoing dialogue with the Turkish authorities.
"Recent years had seen a significant reduction in the number of pending cases from that country, essentially as a result of the existence of a direct appeal to the Constitutional Court, a remedy that we had considered effective. Indeed, I welcome the presence among us this evening of a large delegation from that Court.Since last July’s tragic attempted coup d’état, Turkey has climbed back up to second position, with a very significant increase in the number of cases.Whatever the follow-up that will be given to these cases, this is a striking example of the direct impact of a major political crisis in a member State on the work of our Court.To close this point, I would note that this week’s developments in Turkey are encouraging. The creation, by legislative decree, of a commission with responsibility for examining the appeals lodged in response to the decisions taken since the attempted coup d’état is an excellent initiative, particularly since a judicial appeal will lie against the decisions taken by that commission."
By the end of 2016 the number of pending cases stood at 79,750, up 23% compared to the end of 2015 (when there were 64,850 applications pending).
At the press conference the Court also released its annual activity report and its statistics for 2016. The annual table of violations by country shows that the States with the highest number of judgments against them, finding at least one violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, were Russia (228 judgments), Turkey (88), Romania (86), Ukraine (73), Greece (45) and Hungary (41). At 31 December 2016 the majority of pending cases were against Ukraine (22.8 %), Turkey (15.8 %), Hungary (11.2%), Russia (9.8 %), and Romania (9.3 %). Half the priority cases concerned Ukraine.
The President emphasised the importance of effective implementation of the Convention at national level, to ensure that the principle of subsidiarity fully served its purpose.
"Terrorism, economic crisis, the mass arrival of migrants: Europe must square up to all of these challenges simultaneously. And as though this tragic context were not enough, an identity crisis is causing some States to turn inward, Brexit being the apogee of this trend. We are also seeing a re-assessment of the rule of law. As Emmanuel Decaux has noted, the law has become “an unbearable constraint” in some quarters.Yet the rule of law is what sets Europe apart: it is one of the achievements of our civilisation, a rampart against tyranny. This is what Europe represents: a part of the world where the rules of the democratic game have been laid down, and where compliance with these rules is guaranteed by the Constitutional and Supreme Courts."