EU: Romania, Bulgaria and Poland: the EU's most frequent violators of the European Convention on Human Rights in 2012

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Member states of the European Union were found to have violated the European Convention on Human Rights in 486 different cases last year. [1] Cyprus had no cases brought against it at all, while the three worst offenders were Poland, with 56 judgements finding at least one violation, out of 74 cases brought to the court; Bulgaria (58 judgements, 64 cases); and Romania (70 judgments, 79 cases).

Cases in which the Romania state was found to have violated Convention rights include Creanga, in which the pre-trial detention of a police officer was found to be unlawful; Albu and Others, in which the Court found that the state "deprived the provisions of Article 10 [freedom of expression] of all useful effect and had hindered the applicants in pursuing their profession as radio journalists"; and Anca Mocanu, which ruled that there had been a failure to investigate the death of a man during the June 1990 demonstrations against the Romanian government. [2]

In the case of Stamose, Bulgaria was found to have violated the freedom of an individual to leave their country after imposing a two-year travel ban on a Bulgarian citizen following his deportation from the USA. In Yordanova and Others, the court found violations of the rights to respect for a private and family life and respect for the home when it ordered the eviction of a Roma settlement without any clear plans to rehouse the families affected. [3]

The Polish authorities were criticised by the court in cases such as Kaperzynski, in which the Court found a violation of the right to freedom of expression. Following a newspaper article in which he criticised a local mayor's handling of defects in a sewage system, the mayor's office took him to court and he was banned from working as a journalist for two years. The European Court found that "the interference with the applicant's freedom of expression had been disproportionate." [4]

In the case of Miaždžyk, Poland was found to have violated the right to freedom of movement through the issuing of an order prohibiting a French national leaving Poland during criminal proceedings that lasted over five years. [5]

Other 'high-ranking' EU member states include Greece (52 cases in which at least one violation was found, out of 56 cases) and Italy (36 violations found, out of 63 cases).

In one case, Greece was found to have violated Article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits torture, following its failure to provide "sufficient redress" to a Turkish man who was travelling to Greece in a vessel that was intercepted by the Greek coastguard. The coastguard escorted the man and his fellow travellers to a port in Crete, and was raped by a coastguard officer. Despite a subsequent investigation and prosecution, the Court found that:

"The Greek criminal-law system, as applied in the present case, had not had the desired deterrent effect such as to prevent the commission of the offence complained of by the applicant, nor had it provided adequate redress for the ill-treatment meted out to him." [6]

The most widely-reported case involving Italy is that of Hirsi Jamaa and Others, in which an asylum-seeker who sought to challenge a deportation order but was faced with remedies "available in theory," but whose "accessibility in practice had been limited by a number of factors." The Court found that "without its intervention, the applicant would have been deported to Sudan without his claims having been subjected to the closest possible scrutiny." [7]

Pending application brought against Italy stood at 14,188 at the end of 2012, putting it way ahead of any other EU member state. However, cases concerning the Russian state are causing the biggest workload for the Court: 28,593 applications were pending at the end of 2012.

While cases against EU member states made up the majority of the Court's work in 2012, Russia had the largest number of findings against it - of 134 cases, at least one violation of a Convention provision was found in 122 cases.

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, notes in the annual report of the Court that it is "overloaded", but that "the problem is not that people complain, but that many of them have reasons to do so."

He goes on to say that:

"The main reason why the Court is overloaded is that people have found that justice could not be obtained at home. The obvious answer is that much more must be done to protect human rights at home, at the domestic level… The problems of the Court are primarily symptoms of a deeper crisis: human rights principles are still not taken sufficiently seriously in our member states."

[1] Council of Europe, Annual Report 2012 of the European Court of Human Rights, January 2013
[2] Information Notes on the Court's case-law: February 2012; May 2012; November 2012
[3] Information Notes on the Court's case-law: November 2012; April 2012
[4] Information Notes on the Court's case-law: April 2012
[5] Information Notes on the Court's case-law: January 2012
[6] Ibid.
[7] Information Notes on the Court's case-law: February 2012;

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