Robert Spano – The youngest President of the ECHR facing new challenges

Mr Robert Spano was elected President of the European Court of Human Rights on Monday (April 20th). His term begins on May 18, 2020 and ends on November 1, 2022. He replaces the Greek judge Mr. Lino – Alexandros Sicilianos – after a successful term – in the Presidency of the Court.

The new president is 48 years old, an Icelander of Italian descent. He has been the newest President of the Strasbourg Court since its inception.

Mr. Spano is a prolific writer, having published important legal studies and has become well known for introducing the notion of the “auxiliary era” by which he describes the newest phase of the Court’s evolution.

His election (essentially for the next 2.5 years) consolidates the new trend of the Court for a short term of office of the President of the ECtHR in contrast to the past.

The new President has performed an important judicial role and is a man who is often troubled through his lectures and articles on the future of the European Court of Human Rights.

The bold defense of the Strasbourg Court’s work against the aggressive and hostile view of the British Lord Sumption, who has attacked the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights as interfering in national political choices, is pointed out. Mr. Spano expressed the view that in a democratic society, the meeting of law and politics is not necessarily hostile. He wrote that “..just law and politics must seek to work together in order to create stability and a human society that respects human rights and dignity. Each has its own role and the role of one strengthens the role of the other. In short, one cannot survive without the other. ”

The new President is taking on duty a very difficult time. Thousands of cases are pending in the ECtHR and the period is extremely difficult due to the corona virus, which has affected everything and of course the functioning of the Court.

This period is very critical with the rise of politicians with tendencies to nationalism, populism and internalism, with the pan-European emergence of emergency legislation to tackle the virus, which initially seems reasonable but if they pass the necessary time will create serious problems for individual rights and freedoms.

At this critical time, the European Court of Justice is more necessary than ever to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of European citizens.

The new President has all the guarantees to push the ECtHR to fulfill its institutional role. In other words, to defend and develop individual rights and freedoms. This is also his obligation.

Good luck!


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