CYIL vol. 11 (2020)
CYIL 11 (2020) CONVENTION IN THE TIMES OF COVID-19: WHO IS THE MASTER… Rights (see Art. 45). Though the IACtHR at least decided on the suspension of the time limits by an agreement which is a form of a decision used for clarification of procedural rules. Whoever adopted the analysed decisions was certainly led by good intentions. In principle, it can be acknowledged that the Court is attempting to accommodate the applicants in this difficult situation. The Court can only operate if it is effectively accessible to them. Although the post offices have been closed only in Cyprus in the current situation, sending letters is certainly complicated in this situation. Rather than extending the deadline by a month (or three), it would probably be preferable had the Court (at least temporarily) accepted submissions in electronic form, which is, after all, the standard of most domestic courts in Europe 20 . The monthly statistics 21 reveal 13% decline in applications allocated in first six months in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, suggesting that indeed applicants may have postponed their submissions before the Court. However, the same data show 30% decrease in judgments delivered too. Conclusion The UN Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No. 29 on the States of Emergency 22 stresses out the importance of “the maintenance of the principles of legality and rule of law at times when they are most needed.” It may appear that the easing of requirements is favourable for the applicants. Yet, we may not forget that even though technically it is just the “bad” State that is the opposing party of the legal dispute before the Court, it must be borne in mind that the result of the dispute may have an important impact on other individuals, especially if the case submitted to the Court originated in civil proceedings, which rely on legal certainty. The Court has broken a major taboo. The taboo that international treaties may not be amended by anyone else than the parties themselves. Who else but an international court should respect rules of international law? The fact that international treaties are adopted in a complicated procedure which is enshrined in national constitutions makes them legitimate; it serves the division of powers and creates the international rule of law. The appealing step undermines the trust of the member states that it is them that govern international treaties. It is not for the first time that we may notice that the international organisations take steps toward emancipation; they make demands to increase their budgets, they start to reject national candidates to their decision-making bodies. If States lose their trust in certainty of longstanding international rules, they will become less willing to undertake further obligations and to comply with the existing ones. It is not to criticise the Court for trying to accommodate the needs of the applicants in times of crisis that we are highlighting the cited problematic aspects of the Court’s approach to the recent pandemic. What we are trying to point out is that any such accommodations must be done thoughtfully and in accordance with rules, otherwise, they can lead to unintended consequences. Not only can the measures taken become a dangerous precedent. 20 Brighton Declaraton form 2012 invited the Court to consider… measures should be put in place to facilitate applications to be made online, and the procedure for the communication of cases consequently simplified, whilst ensuring applications continue to be accepted from applicants unable to apply online. 21 Statistics Monthly 2020. Accessible at: https://echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=reports&c=. 22 General Comment No. 29. States of Emergency (Article 4), CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.11, 31 August 2001.
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