Vienna, 20 February 2009 Press release

Spindelegger: "Court of Justice as Europe’s human-rights conscience"

Foreign Minister on the 50th anniversary of the ECHR

Vienna, 20 February 2009 - "50 years European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stand for an impressive success story", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger today. "The Court of Justice in Strasbourg, which will be celebrating its round anniversary on 23 February, has set new standards and is rightly considered the conscience of Europe. The ECHR is an authority that gives hope to hundreds of millions of people on our continent. The citizens of 47 member states of the Council of Europe enjoy the guarantee that human rights are not only empty words, but that they can be enforced through the Court of Justice", the Foreign Minister continued.

In 2008, almost 50,000 people filed cases for human rights violations with the judges in Strasbourg - a fifth more than in the year before. Currently, over 97,000 cases are pending before the Court. The increasing number of cases is exceeding the capacity of the Court, which threatens to go under in this flood of complaints: "Urgent steps are needed to maintain the ability of the Court to function", said the Foreign Minister, adding that "we therefore emphatically demand the entry into force of Additional Protocol no. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. In all future reform measures of the system, however, the right of individual recourse must be maintained. This is a cause that Austria consistently supports."

Spindelegger concluded by saying that "Our work mandate should be to render a court of human rights on our continent superfluous. But we are still far from achieving that, as it is shown by the rising number of cases each year. Being a community of laws and values, Europe needs this human-rights conscience."

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