The Council of Europe

An interesting special report from Record Europe covering the history structure and function of the Council of Europe which includes, of course, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which because of expansion in membership of the Council, together with the right of direct petition by subjects and citizens of member states currently has a backlog of 105,000 cases.

It is important to keep in mind that the Council of Europe and the European Union are totally separate entities with different structures, separate courts and a different system of law.

Shirin Wheeler asks if the Council of Europe is up to the task of being the "conscience of the continent", and whether or not it is hard enough on member states that flagrantly disregard human rights.

Joining her in the discussion are Terry Davis, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Parliamentary Assembly member John Prescott.
The case of Carson and Others v United Kingdom (case No 42184/05) has had its preliminary hearing before the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR in Strasbourg on Wednesday 2 September 2009.

It is a case brought by 13 pensioners whose state pensions are frozen.

The applicants contend that the UK's rules unfairly discriminate against them, and nearly half a million other expatriate UK pensioners, in breach of Protocol 1 of Article 1 and Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1953.

Annual upratings of the UK state pension are paid to recipients living in the European Economic Area and Switzerland, as well as countries where there are reciprocal social security agreements such as the US, Jersey, Guernsey and Turkey. However, the state pension does not rise in line with inflation each year for recipients living in some Commonwealth states, such as South Africa, Canada and Australia.

Judgement in the case will not be made until March or April 2010. This is the latest stage in a long-running legal challenge and the eventual decision will be the end of the line in the legal process.

Those who may have an interest in hearing the oral submissions to the court by counsel for applicants and defendant my watch the webcast of the hearing.

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