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Express Op-Ed on UK and the ECHR

"We hear an awful lot about the European Court of Human Rights these days. Particularly from those who like to suggest that our record on human rights leaves a lot to be desired.

The problem is the evidence suggests otherwise. We’ve crunched the numbers.

The UK has one of the best human rights records among all 46 ECHR members. Since 1959, the ECHR has given some 22,000 judgments that found rights had been violated.

The UK has been at fault in just 1.5 percent of these cases (despite having one of the largest populations in Europe).

In 2022, the Court found the UK had violated rights only twice – way below Russia (obviously) but also Belgium and France.

In fact, last year the UK had the lowest number of applications to the Court per capita of all 46 ECHR members and Russia (which was expelled from the ECHR in 2022 following the invasion of Ukraine). Why have we performed so well? Well, the biggest reason is the Human Rights Act. Since it came into force in 2000, the number of judgments against the UK has fallen.

Because of the HRA, public bodies – including the police, hospitals, care homes, and local councils – must protect peoples’ rights in all their decisions and actions, meaning these rights are less likely to be breached in the first place.

Because of the HRA, alleged violations are considered in UK courts first, rather than heading straight to Strasbourg, which, as a result, hears fewer cases concerning the UK.

Even when a case does reach Strasbourg, the European Court is more likely to follow what UK courts and public bodies have decided. Why? Because they’ve already taken on board human rights considerations - as the HRA requires.

Even where the Court has found that the UK has violated rights, we have one of the best records for sorting out the problem. The UK’s case closure rate ranks 8th highest out of 47 countries, with 97 percent of rulings involving the UK closed as of 31 December 2022.

When it comes to interim measures, or urgent orders issued by the European Court when it sees there is an immediate risk of harm that can’t be undone, we should not judge simply by the headlines.

Read the Op-Ed here.

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