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24 February 2024

Cameron sets out plans to reform EU rights court


British Prime Minister David Cameron will urge EU leaders on Wednesday to seize a "once-in-a-generation chance" to make sweeping changes to the European Court of Human Rights.

In a speech that he will give in Strasbourg to the Council of Europe, Cameron calls for reforms to give greater precedence to rulings by the courts of member nations.

Britain holds the presidency of the council until May and is hoping to use its tenure to push through the changes, especially after a recent case in which the Strasbourg court blocked the extradition of a Muslim extremist.

"Today, I want to speak about the once-in-a-generation chance we have, together, to improve the way we enhance the cause of human rights, freedom and dignity," Cameron insists in his speech, excerpts of which were released early by his Downing Street office.

"For the sake of the 800 million people the court serves, we need to reform it so that it is true to its original purpose."

His proposals include new rules to ensure the European Court of Human Rights only focuses on the "most important cases" and does not get drawn into lesser legal disputes.

Cameron is also calling for improved procedures for the selection of the judges from across Europe.

He is also hoping for consensus on the "principle that where possible, final decisions should be made nationally."

On Tuesday the British head of the European Court of Human Rights, Nicolas Bratza, criticised Cameron's plans and accused the government of pandering to the tabloid press.

The issue flared up earlier this month when the court blocked Britain from extraditing Abu Qatada, a radical cleric described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, to Jordan.

The court ruled that he would be tried in Jordan using evidence obtained by torture.

Cameron last week called the decision "immensely frustrating" insisting that Britain should be able to deport people it views as a threat to its security.

His proposals for the reform of the court threaten to cause a fresh clash with Britain's European partners after he kept London out of a fiscal discipline pact involving all the 26 other EU nations in December.