The opening of the judicial year (at the end of last month) always marks a moment of stock-taking for the European Court of Human Rights. In his main speech, the President of the Court, judge Guido Raimondi, expressed both optimism and caution. On a positive note, he pointed out that in a year, the number of pending cases dropped further, from 80,000 to 56,000 approximately. however, he also emphasized that the Court was nearing the end of its creativity in efficiency-enhancing measures. Among the still pending cases is what the President referred to as the 'hard core" : cases that merit detailed attention and cannot summarily dealt with. The end of the quick decrease in backlog may thus be in sight. In addition, the decrease hides large chunks of cases concerning systemic issues whose supervision has been transferred to the Committee of Ministers and are thus far from "solved" for the applicants (see the Burmych and Others v Ukraine case), as the President acknowledged. As to the issue of the strengthening of ties with high domestic courts, the Network of Superior Courts with the European Court as its node, has now expanded to 64 superior courts.
Two other key developments mentioned in the President's speech were the start of infringement proceedings (in Mammadov v. Azerbaijan) as a challenging historical first and the introduction by the Court of of (limited) reasoning for single judge decisions.
At the same occasion, a seminar on “The Authority of the Judiciary” was organised at the Court's premises. Both the Presidents of the Strasbourg as well as the Luxembourg courts addressed the audience. An extensive background document accompanied the event, which provides a useful mix of Court case-law and references to other documents on issues ranging from the separation of powers to communication strategies for courts.
For the coming months, important events are upcoming, the most notable being the contested plans of the current Danish chairmanship of the Council of Europe with the Court. More about that, including NGO reactions, coming up soon!