Thursday 21 June 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The European Court of Human Rights has called for voluntary financial contributions from member states to fund extra lawyers to clear its backlog of cases.

The secretary general of the Council of Europe and the president of the ECtHR today announced the opening of a special account for the court and called for the voluntary contributions. The fund will be used to recruit lawyers to deal with the backlog of priority cases. Some 2,000 priority applications have been pending for more than a year without having been communicated to the relevant government for observations.

A further 600 applications communicated to the relevant government more than two years previously are still pending before the court. Donor states will be able to stipulate that the funds given by them should be used for a specific purpose such as dealing with applications against them.

A spokeswoman at the ECtHR told the Gazette that no states have yet confirmed how much or when they will contribute. She added that the UK had given no indication whether or not it contribute at this stage. The scheme follows an idea that emerged at the Brighton Declaration conference in April.

In a joint statement in Strasbourg today the Council of Europe's secretary general Thorbjørn Jagland and the court's president Sir Nicolas Bratza said: 'At the high level conference in Brighton a number of states indicated their willingness to provide additional financial support to the court to assist it with its backlog of cases.

'The contributions paid into this account will be used where they will have the most effect, that is on the cases which have the most impact in terms of identifying and correcting serious human rights abuses throughout the Council of Europe countries and particularly where the alleged victims have been waiting too long for a decision.'

The statement added that the new single judge procedure and the adoption of new working methods by the court's registry had already reduced the backlog of inadmissible cases and cut waiting time for applicants with inadmissible applications.

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