Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and Honorary Professor at the School of Law (2014-2017) gave a series of talk on the relationship between the UK and the European Court of Human Rights.
On 7 March 2016, Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and Honorary Professor at the School of Law, delivered a seminar, Dialogue or Deference? The Relationship between the UK and Strasbourg Courts.
During the seminar Sir Nicolas considered whether, and then how, the ECtHR and UK domestic courts have influenced each other. Sir Nicolas concluded that strengthening the dialogue between UK courts and the ECtHR will continue to strengthen human rights protection in the UK.
View a full report of the seminar.
Sir Nicolas Bratza recently retired from his post as President of the European Court of Human Rights, where he had served as the judge of the Court elected in respect of the United Kingdom for 14 years. From 1994-1998 he was the United Kingdom Member of the European Commission of Human Rights. Sir Nicolas was in private practice at the Bar of England and Wales until 1998, specialising in commercial law, public law and human rights law. He appeared as Counsel in numerous cases before the former European Commission and European Court of Human Rights from 1970 until 1993. In 1998 Sir Nicolas was appointed a judge of the High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division.
On Monday 2 March 2015, Sir Nicolas Bratza, Chairman of the International Advisory Panel on Ukraine and Honorary Professor at the School of Law, delivered a seminar entitled 'The Human Rights Landscape in the United Kingdom. Is there really a case for change?'
During the seminar Sir Nicolas discussed the proposals put forward by the Conservative Party for changing Britain's human rights laws. He went on to outline and respond to a number of criticisms of the current system for the protection of human rights in the UK. In doing so, Sir Nicolas sought to dispel a number of misconceptions about the European human rights regime.
Sir Nicolas concluded by expressing concern that if the UK were to withdraw from the European Convention system a dangerous precedent could be set which would pose a significant threat to the whole European system of human rights.
A full report of proceedings is now available.
On 12 March 2014, Sir Nicolas Bratza delivered a lunchtime seminar in response to recent criticism of the role of the European Court of Human Rights voiced by members of the UK judiciary.
Senior British judges have publicly criticised the role of the Strasbourg Court, attacking the relationship between the UK and the European Convention. Sir Nicolas provided an overview of the lectures delivered by LJ Laws Second Hamlyn Lecture (27 November 2013), Lord Sumption at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Lecture in Kuala Lumpur (30 November 2013), Lord Judge at University College London (4 December 2013), Lord Mance at the World Policy Conference, Monaco (14 December 2013) and Lord Neuberger at the Cambridge Freshfields Annual Lecture (12 February 2014).
In the past, such criticism of the Strasbourg Court came principally from the media and politicians; this recent shift to judicial condemnation is surprising. Sir Nicolas contextualised this shift by placing it within the widespread media coverage and the political campaign to denigrate the Strasbourg Court and the Convention system overall in the run up to the general election in 2015.
Sir Nicolas outlined the potential impact of judicial reluctance to submit to the Strasbourg Court's case law despite the broad requirement for British judges to "take into account" case law. He also explained the principal area of contention between supporters and opponents of the Strasbourg Court: the development of the "living instrument" doctrine.
Sir Nicolas surmised that the current rhetoric and discourse - both political and judicial - reflected in the media, is potentially detrimental to the future of the Human Rights Act and the United Kingdom's continued membership of the Convention system. The precarious nature of the UK’s position is two-fold with the potential repeal of the Human Rights Act and the introduction of a Bill of Rights but also the withdrawal from the Convention.
Sir Nicolas stated:
"The consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom would in my view not only be potentially serious for the protection of human rights here but disastrous for the future of the Convention system as a whole, to which it would do incalculable damage."
The address by Sir Nicolas was followed by a discussion with School of Law staff and postgraduate students. Read the full text of Sir Nicolas' address.