Legal Working Group discusses third party intervention before the ECtHR, plans future activities

Legal WG members meeting in Utrecht 2017

What constitutes an effective third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights? This was the overarching theme of ENNHRI’s Legal Working Group meeting in Utrecht, on 20 and 21 June 2017. Hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, the meeting brought together 14 ENNHRI members.

The first day was dedicated to a training on how NHRIs can make an impactful third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which provided practical insight into the monitoring and selection of cases communicated to the Member States of the Council of Europe in order to ensure the usefulness of a third party intervention.

Agnes Van Steijn, Senior Registry Lawyer at the ECtHR, provided valuable insight into the Court’s perspective: a third party intervention is a necessary and constructive tool, which allows the judges to understand better the national landscape, and enriches the deliberations. Rupert Skilbeck, Litigation Director at the Justice Initiative (Open Society Foundation) shared the NGOs perspective, and experience of human rights strategic litigation and discussed ways in which to achieve impact and add value beyond the applicant’s case.

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ECtHR buidling

NHRIs are in a unique position to become very good friends of the ECtHR due to their impartial position, remarked Agnes Van Steijn, while Rupert Skilbeck highlighted as well the value-added of NHRIs, given by their unique official mandate and encouraged further cooperation between NHRIs and NGOs.

Clare Collier, Senior Principal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain and Chair of the Legal Working Group, presented NHRI’s perspective to third party interventions, including the development of a strategic litigation policy to ensure the usefulness of the interventions.

During the second day, participants discussed the methods of work as well as the wide range of activities undertaken by the Legal Working Group, including engagement with the Council of Europe, and EU bodies, the execution of judgements of the ECtHR and NHRIs interventions as amicus curiae in various cases concerning human rights.