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NHRI engagement with the executive branch
Member States are primarily responsible for the implementation of the Convention and the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. As such, the European Convention system ‘hinges on their willingness and ability to do so’. NHRI engagement with the executive branch of government is therefore important – NHRIs can influence and pressure the Executive branch in a number of ways to ensure compliance. In several Member States, NHRIs can engage with the Executive branch (and other (State) actors) on a formal and regular basis through national implementation structures to work on the implementation of ECtHR judgments.
Such national implementation structures can be key in improving implementation records. In such mechanisms, relevant actors, including public authorities and key stakeholders can discuss judgments pending execution and work together to advance implementation. In various national implementation structures that have been established across Europe, NHRIs have also been designated a role. When part of such structures, NHRIs can give their observations and recommendations on how to achieve compliance with Convention standards and full execution of the Court’s judgments in a formal setting.
Republic of Croatia – National Council of Experts
In 2014, a National Council of Experts was established in Croatia at the initiative of the State Agent of Croatia. The Council of Experts was envisaged to work as an inter-institutional body responsible for defining and implementing the measures for the execution of the Court’s judgments. It consists of 40 members, which include representatives of all ministries, judicial bodies, State attorney’s office and, importantly, the Ombudsoffice. It communicates through a mailing list; the state agent delivers drafts of action plans to the council members. It also delivers specific questions to state bodies who are in charge of the implementation of a particular judgment. The state body in charge has the responsibility to propose specific measures to implement the judgment, and the time frame for the execution overall.
Within the Council, there is one representative of the Ombudswoman’s office. In this capacity, the Ombudswoman has a monitoring role in the process of Croatia’s execution of the Court’s judgments. To date, the Ombudswoman has submitted opinions on the action plan proposals by the Government in two separate cases, that of the Secic group of cases in which the Court found violations on account of the domestic authorities’ failure to take into account racist motives that were behind the attacks on the applicant and for the Dolenec and Gladovic cases, in which the Court determined that the domestic authorites had failed to properly investigate the applicants’ allegations of ill-treatment while serving their prison sentences. These opinions have been incorporated in the final Action plans of the Government. Overall, in the opinion of a representative of the office of the Ombudswoman, such implementation structures emphasise the importance of cooperation between various State bodies and NHRIs in the context of better efficiency of the implementation of the ECtHR judgements at the national level.
Czech Republic – The Collegium of Experts on the Enforcement of ECtHR Judgments
The College of Experts on the Enforcement of ECtHR Judgments is an advisory body to the Czech government. The College was set up to carry out commitments made in the Brussels Declaration and is purposed to strengthen the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Czech Republic. More particularly, its aim is ‘to contribute to the effective enforcement of ECtHR judgments and to raise awareness among the competent authorities of the Czech Republic’s obligations under the Convention. Another aim is to apply the Convention and the case law of the ECtHR in the daily practice of national authorities’, thereby fully implementing the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The College meets as required – roughly every six to twelve months, or when needed. It analyses judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights against the Czech Republic and in response, it formulates recommendations to the competent authorities for the adoption of general measure to ensure the execution of these judgments. In addition, the College is also charged with considering European Court of Human Rights judgments delivered against other States in terms of their impact on the Czech Republic.
Representatives of all ministries, parliaments, the Supreme Courts, the Public Prosecutor’s Office as well as academics, members of civil society and the Office of the Public Defender of Rights sit in the College. The first meeting of the College took place on 10 November 2015. A representative of the Public Defender of Rights has positive experiences with regard to their participation in this College. During the meetings, participating actors are able to share their information, discuss various issues at stake and were able to bring their own experiences to the table. Overall, the representative of the Public Defender considered these sessions useful as they strengthen the relationship between the various actors, allow for relevant actors to meet and bring together a wide range of knowledge.
The Human Rights Ombudsman of Slovenia – Interministerial working group
The interministerial working group for coordinating the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights was established in 2015 by initiative of the Ministry of Justice (decision no. 00405-8/2015/7). The working group falls under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, and is supported by a ‘unit’, also established within the Ministry of Justice. The working group is chaired by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and, on a personal basis, appoints members and alternate members from various ministries, from the police, the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia to the Council of Europe and of the State Attorneys Office of the Republic of Slovenia. Two high-level Deputy Ombudsmen from the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, as well as representatives from the Supreme Court, are members of the Working Group. During such meetings, the Deputy Ombudsmen help monitor the implementation process, give opinions and can express concern with regard to the implementation of a judgment when necessary.
The Working group meets once or twice per year, or when needed. Particular attention is devoted to those cases that have been placed under ‘enhanced supervision’ (as opposed to those under standard supervision). Between the meetings, the coordination and expert work lies with the support group. This unit has quite a lot of tasks and responsibilities. It conducts the initial legal analysis of ECtHR cases for the required individual and general measures, it coordinates measures to be taken, for instance the drafting of legislative proposals, it drafts action plans and reports and finally, works with the Department of Execution and engages with the Council of Europe to see what general measures are to be adopted.
It has been the experience of a representative of the Human Rights Ombudsman that national implementation structures such as the interministerial working group can be valuable when, overall, there is a systematic lack of implementation of ECtHR judgments. In addition, the working group was recognised as particularly useful for those judgments that were, across the board, recognised as being difficult, yet important, to implement and for those that require a consolidated response from various State actors. Overall, the Slovenian experience is that the working group has been instrumental in improving the implementation track record of ECtHR judgments.
Roadmap for engagement
Image source: ENNHRI Guidance for National Human Rights Institutions to support implementation of Judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.