UK sixth most human rights-friendly country in Europe

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By Katie King on

Nordic countries more ECHR-compliant, but UK beats Germany, Italy, Spain and 38 others

European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France

For all its human rights-directed grumbles, the United Kingdom is one of the most European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) compliant of them all. Only the lovely Andorra, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland have a better success rate in the Strasbourg court.

Data released by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) shows the number of judgments made concerning Council of Europe Member States since 1959 and until 2017, as well as the number of judgments that were made against these states. It is important to note that these figures relate only to judgments and not the total number of cases considered by the court. The overwhelming majority (over 99%) of applications against the UK are rejected before they get to the judgment stage.

For the UK, the number of judgments made relating to the UK is 545, the court finding against the country in 314 of these. This gives us a judgment ‘failure rate’ of 58%.

While this means the UK loses most of its cases — though do note this data only looks at ECtHR cases and doesn’t include human rights challenges argued on home soil — this figure is wildly better than most countries’. We were beaten only by Denmark, whose 31% failure rate is the lowest of all, Sweden (40%), Andorra (50%), and the Netherlands (56%), while Switzerland matched the UK’s percentage. This means the UK beat 41 other countries’ scores.

On the other end of the scale, there is one country, Monaco, that has lost all of its ECHR cases. However, its sample size is very small, three. Ukraine, on the other hand, has faced 1,213 claims, and lost 98% of them. Azerbaijan’s failure rate is 96%, Hungary’s is 95% and so is Montenegro’s. Other countries scoring in the 90s are: Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

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Further west — and therefore closer to the UK — France, Italy and Spain have higher failure rates of 73%, 76% and 67% respectively.

Failure rates aside and simple numbers-wise, the 545 cases brought against the UK since the 1950s is also pretty low when compared to other major European nations. While the likes of Spain, Germany and Austria have had fewer cases, note that France has defended 997 claims and Italy a whopping 2,382. Other countries that regularly find themselves before the Strasbourg court include: Poland (1,145), Russia (2,253) and Turkey (3,386).

Looking just at 2017, five cases were brought against the UK and the court found a violation in two of these (40%). To give you a comparison, 39 were brought against Bulgaria, 69 against Romania, 116 against Turkey and 305 against Russia. In the west, 12 were brought against France and 16 against Germany. More than three times the number of claims were brought against Moldova than the UK; Moldova has a population of three million.

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