Doc. 8525
17 September 1999

National procedures for nominating candidates for election to the European Court of Human Rights

Opinion 1

Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Rapporteur: Ms Manuela Aguiar, Portugal, Group of the European People's Party

1.       The initiative taken by the Assembly in 1996 to instruct its Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to examine the question of qualifications and the manner of appointment of judges to the new European Court of Human Rights was aimed at, among other things, achieving equal representation in the Court.

2.       In June 1997, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights sent a questionnaire to the members of the national parliamentary delegations, the replies to which clearly showed that the method for selecting candidates varied considerably from one country to another and that the criteria for equal representation were not systematically applied.

3.       Despite the Assembly’s recommendations, no women appeared on the lists of candidates for election to the new Court drawn up by the majority of governments. Indeed, out of a total of 40 judges elected to the present European Court of Human Rights, only eight are women (the Belgian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Netherlands, Norwegian, Slovakian and Swedish judges and the judge for “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”).

4.       This discrimination against women is unacceptable and totally unjustified considering the active presence of women in the courts of the member states, in the legal profession and in associations and non-governmental organisations for the defence of human rights.

5.       Consequently, in order to remedy this situation and further improve the procedure for future renewals of the Court, the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men proposes to increase from 3 to 4 the number of candidates and to ask the States to set up a list with parity representation. This will avoid the negative effects of de facto positive discrimination. Indeed, it has been noted that in order to increase the number of women judges in the Court, a woman candidate is selected in preference to a man when both candidates are of equal merit, and this penalises male candidates on the few lists that comprise candidates of both sexes.

6.       This measure must be accompanied by an obligation on governments to list candidates in alphabetical order and not in their order of preference.

7.       The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men supports the proposals made by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, but your rapporteur would like the ad hoc sub-committee that interviews the candidates to comprise in future an equal number of men and women, as this would set an example and would make it possible to improve chances of one day attaining equal representation among the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Reporting committee: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Doc. 8505)

Committee for opinion: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Reference to committee: Order No. 519 (1996) and Reference N 2297 of 26 May 1999

Opinion approved by the committee on 13 September 1999


1 See Doc. 8505, report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights