On June 30, 2011 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had a grand total of 152,800 applications pending before it. By March 31, 2013 this number had been reduced by over 30,000 applications in one and a half year – to a total of 122,450 pending applications. This astonishing development proves that the recently implemented Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, and the restructuring of the ECtHR’s registry, is in fact working.
If the ECtHR can keep this pace up, simple mathematics implies that it will have cleaned out its docket by 2021. Or maybe even before that, considering the fact that the number of new applications is slowly decreasing. This suggests that any further attempts at increasing its efficiency or reduce its current caseload should be of a temporary nature, as the ECtHR would been able to cope well if its docket was not already flooded when reforms could finally be put in place.
The big question is, however, whether one can apply such simple mathematics. Protocol 14 aims mostly to squash and filter out the most glaringly inadmissible applications. Apparently, the registry of the ECtHR was reorganized with the same goal in mind. If the 30,000 applications thrown out in the last year and a half are mainly those that are clearly inadmissible, the numbers may be skewed. Throwing out clearly inadmissible cases requires much less resources than deciding admissible cases on the merits.
It therefore remains to be seen whether the simple mathematics stated in my rather provocative header are an accurate prediction of things to come. My gut feeling is that simple mathematics are inadequate. To find a more accurate answer I think that we need a study of the composition of inadmissible/admissible cases of those 30,000 removed from the docket the last year and a half. This must then be compared with the expected composition of admissible/inadmissible cases before the ECtHR in total.
(If anyone knows of such studies, or relevant and available data, please give me a heads up in the comments.)