University of Minnesota

Note of October 1, 1999, from the President of the European Court of Human, Rights to the President of the Court, reprinted in 1998 Annual Report of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights [759], OEA/Ser.L/V/III.47, doc. 6 (2000).




European Court of Human Rights

Cour européenne des Droits de l’Homme


The President

Le Président 1 October, 1999

Dear President,

  I have had the occasion to read the press release issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning the Court’s decision to continue to hear two cases pending before it.

  I note that this decision was taken following the decision of the respondent State in these cases to withdraw its recognition of the Court’s jurisdiction with immediate effect.

  Clearly this is a matter for your Court only. However, as we in Strasbourg have always followed with close interest your Court and its progress and have worked together with you, in particular by conducting regular meetings to exchange views on common issues, I take the liberty of expressing my concern.

Mr. Antônio A. Cançado Trindade

President of the Inter-American

Court of Human Rights

Apdo. 6906

1000 San José

Costa Rica

I do this in particular because I fear that the implications of such a step for the evolution of international human rights protection are serious. The process initiated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights pursued by the European and American Conventions on Human Rights, the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights stems from the realisation that international judicial guarantees are needed to reinforce effective protection of fundamental rights at national level. The role of international judicial bodies in this respect is an essential factor in establishing and consolidating the rule of law throughout the international community, thereby helping to guarantee peace and stability. This has been recognised in Europe, on your continent and also in Africa, where the setting up of an international court is now envisaged.

  It follows that any move which purports to challenge the principle of international jurisdictions is a step back at a time when, at the close of a century that has seen the most appalling breaches of human rights, progress in the protection of fundamental rights is a beacon of hope for the new millenium.

  I trust that it will be possible for all the parties concerned to find a solution to the problem that has arisen in relation to your Court’s jurisdiction and that it will prove to be no more than a temporary setback.

  I have sent a copy of this letter and the Inter-American Court’s press release to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Yours sincerely,


Luzius Wildhaber

cc:  Mr. Walter Schwimmer

  Secretary General of the Council of Europe



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