Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen´s speech on improving human rights system at a high-level conference in Copenhagen 12 April 2018
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The future of Europe depends on our ability to protect and develop democracy, the rule of law and human rights. I share the concern expressed by Secretary General Jagland and many human rights mechanisms that the rule of law in Europe is eroding. History shows that a collapse of the rule of law may lead to catastrophes. Therefore, we must not yield an inch to those who question human rights and the rule of law.
Here in Copenhagen we are conscious of the need to respect, preserve and defend the independence of the European Court of Human Rights so that the Court can perform its duties with integrity and efficiency.
The European Court of Human Rights, in its current form, began its work nearly 20 years ago. Ever since then, the Court has been continuously reformed, largely as a victim of its own success.
The Court deserves every recognition for its real achievements. The reforms already implemented have produced remarkable results, although the Court has had very limited resources. In the near future, Finland is especially looking forward to the entry into force of Protocol no. 16 to the Convention. The new opportunity for legal dialogue between the Court and the highest domestic courts will reinforce implementation of the Convention, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.
It is of crucial importance not to question the competence of the European Court of Human Rights. We must not take the law into our own hands. We must not dictate conditions of interpretation to the independent and autonomous Court. The binding rulings of the Court must not be challenged for political motives. Constructive dialogue is necessary, but the role of each party must be respected.
Also the European Union must show its commitment to respecting human rights by acceding to the Convention as soon as possible.
The right of an individual to lodge an application to the Court is the most valuable element of the Convention system. It must be maintained. At the same time, we have to take care of the capacity of the Court to examine applications rapidly. Repetitive applications continue to overload the Court. This is due to failures to comply with human rights obligations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is a cure for the continuous need for reform.
First, States must respect human rights and guarantee them for all within their jurisdiction.
Second, domestic legislation, policies and practices must comply with the Convention and its dynamic interpretation.
And third, the judgments must be enforced effectively.
The obligation to implement human rights rests with us, the Contracting Parties. But the responsibility is shared and the stakeholders are numerous. It is of utmost importance to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society. The role of the civil society is crucial for the implementation of the Convention.
Finland will take over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers in November this year. We will emphasise the back to basics philosophy. Legal obligations and their independent monitoring are at the heart of the Council of Europe and the European Human Rights Architecture
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Council of Europe has been the backbone of human rights in Europe for nearly 70 years. Finland is strongly committed to ensuring that it continues to be so also in the future.