In April 2015, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will elect the new judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in respect of Liechtenstein, Monaco, Ireland, Andorra, Austria and Finland. In preparation of this election, the Committee on the election of judges of the PACE will hold a meeting in Paris on 30 and 31 March to interview the three candidates nominated by each of those member States.
As the quality of the judgments of the ECtHR depends on the experience and on the moral character of judges appointed, it is important to look not only at the academic and professional qualifications of candidates, but also at their moral aptitude. This is especially true at a time when the ECtHR is increasingly being turned into a playground for academic “human rights experts” who, having been appointed as judges, believe that now the time has come to put their theories into practice and impose them as a new kind of supreme law. Often those “experts” not only have little or no professional experience in the judiciary, and their ambition is to be law-givers rather than judges.
In order to avoid the appointment of activist judges, it is therefore necessary to ensure that (a) they have a sound understanding of their role, and (b) that they are free from radical ideological leanings.
Unfortunately, the choice is only between the candidates proposed by Member States’ governments, and some governments seem to deliberately want activist judges at the ECtHR, turning the Court from a judiciary into a political body. At times therefore, the challenge is not to choose the “best”, but the “least bad”, candidate.
Ms Brigitte Liselotte OHMS has sixteen years of extensive practical experience on the Convention and the Court’s case-law (she has been the Austria’s Deputy Government Agent before the European Court of Human Rights, Austria’s representative in the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Human Rights for the last seven years and head of division for cases before the ECHR for sixteen years), on the UN system of human rights (she was head of division for cases before the UN treaty bodies), on EU fundamental rights (she is the primary contact person of the Austrian National Liaison Officer for the FRA for the last eight years) and on Constitutional law (she has six-year experience in the Austrian Constitutional Court and eighteen years of experience as legal adviser of the Federal Chancellery on Constitutional law). Close observers will remember Mrs. Ohms’s role when she defended Austria (successfully) in the case of S.H. and others v. Austria, and (unsuccessfully) in X. and Others v. Austria. Although in the first case her defense was ultimately successful, her performance appeared rather mediocre in both cases.
Mr Stephan BREITENMOSER has eight-year experience as a judge at the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland and fourteen years as a judge at the Court of Appeal, he seems specialized more in the field of EU law (he has been a European law professor for the last fourteen years) than in human rights. He has written on Article 8 of the Convention (which, quite disturbingly, he describes as “fallback fundamental right” in relation to Article 12) and he held lectures and seminars on human rights in various universities).
Mr Carlo RANZONI, having fourteen-year of judicial experience as a judge at the Princely Court of Liechtenstein, is a judge rather than a professor. He also has recent experience on human rights, having served as Liechtenstein representative at the European Committee on Crime Problems of the Council of Europe, at the Council of Europe Committee of the parties to the Lanzarote Convention and at the Committee of experts on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Ms Stéphanie MOUROU-VIKSTRÖM is 45 years old, she has thirteen-year experience as a judge and public prosecutor and for three years she has been the president of children’s tribunal. She is a member of CEPEJ and of the Data Protection Authority of Monaco and published some articles on the reform of the ECHR and on the secret surveillance and the protection of individual freedoms.
Ms Fabienne GUIEN has twenty-three-year experience as a Secretary-General of the Economic and Social Council. Her record appears weak with regard both to professional experience in the judiciary and publications, but her activities on “gender equality” indicate a certain leaning towards feminist ideologies.
Mr Philippe ORENGO is 62 years old. He holds a master’s degree on political science in Paris and he has professional experience as public servant in the office of the Mayor of Paris and as a sub-prefect. He is a member of the administrative court in Nice.
Mr. Gerard QUINN is a very “academic” candidate with human rights activities on the rights of persons with disabilities, on the rights of older people and on equality and non-discrimination in Ireland, at the Council of Europe, at the EU and at the UN. His membership of the advisory board of certain NGOs with radical agendas, such as Open Society Foundation, Human Rights Watch and Interights, raises serious issues of independence and impartiality, as those organizations promote controversial pro-abortion and LGBT rights. Nevertheless, it seems that his activities are focused to the promotion of the rights of disabled people.
Ms Siobhán MULLALLY is a professor with no judicial experience and her candidacy raises serious issues of independence and impartiality due to her close association with militant NGOs that promote gender ideology, feminism, and abortion “rights”, such as the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA). This concern is confirmed by her publications, conferences and experience as a legal adviser on UN human rights system, her main topics being gender, women’s rights, and (sexual) minority rights. She has a long academic experience at the University of Cork and since 2013 she is the Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights Commission, member of the Joint Committee of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Northern Irish Human Rights Commission, of the Board of the Equality Authority and of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Ms Síofra O’LEARY has not held any judicial functions either, but as a référendaire and head of research and documentation unit she works closely with the judges at the Court of Luxembourg. She gave lectures and published books and articles on EU law, which appears to be her main specialization. She is the author of a publication in which she advocated the liberalization of abortion rights in Ireland.
Mr Pere PASTOR VILANOVA has seventeen years of judicial experience, the last four years as a judge of the Supreme Court of Andorra, ten years of academic experience as a lecturer at the University of Andorra and Toulouse and as a member of the Bioethics Committee of the Council of Europe. He published articles on the ECHR on the European Convention on Human Rights and its case-law.
Mr Francesc BADIA-GOMIS is 59 years old. He has no judicial experience. He has thirty five- year experience as a lawyer.
Ms Patricia QUILLACQ ALBAJES is a specialist on environmental law and she worked as a legal adviser in the Government of Andorra.
Mr Peter LEWISCH can be said to have a strong record both as a practicing lawyer and as an academic, having worked as an attorney and, besides that, as professor for criminal law. He has an extensive academic activity in the field of EU law, Constitutional and Criminal law, including the European Convention on Human Rights, since 2002. He also has a significant length of practice as an attorney at law in Vienna, since 1996, being a specialist in public law remedies (to the Constitutional Court, to the Administrative Court and to the ECHR) and drafting complaints to the Supreme Court regarding violation of rights under the Convention and to the ECHR. He is the author of 11 books and of 100 individual publications on questions of Constitutional law, European Convention of Human Rights, Criminal law, etc.
Ms Gabriele KUCSKO-STADLMAYER is 60 years old. She is a substitute member of the Constitutional Court of Austria since 1995 and was a member of the EU Selection Committee for Civil Service Tribunal (2005-2009). She is a professor of Constitutional and Administrative law at the University of Vienna since 1977. She is a substitute member of the Venice Commission since 2006. She is the author of 12 books and 100 articles on Constitutional law, Ombudsman institutions in Europe, EU and the European Convention of Human Rights.
Ms Katharina PABEL was nominated as ad-hoc judge at the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 and she is a professor of Public Law at the University of Linz since 2010. Her experience on human rights is recent: since 2012 she is a member of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council and an alternate member of the Management Board of the EU FRA and since 2014 she is a member of the Working Group of Communication, Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure. She has 110 publications on the European Convention of Human Rights, Administrative law and EU law.
Finland has proposed three highly profiled judges.
Ms Pauliine KOSKELO is a judge with impressive qualifications, having served 15 years as a member of the Supreme Court of Finland, and being President of this Court since 2006. Since 2008, she held the function of Vice-President of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union.
Mr Jukka LINDSTEDT has a significant length of service as a judge and a public servant. Since 2014 he serves as judge at the Helsinki Court of Appeal and for eight years he was Counsellor of Legislation in the Ministry of Justice.
Ms Anne Elina NIEMI has ten years of experience as Justice at the Supreme Administrative Court. In 2009 she was appointed ad hoc judge at the European Court of Human Rights.