The first group of fifteen judges to the Human Rights Court was elected by the Consultative Assembly, a tradition that continues to this day. Parliamentarians are asked to choose between three candidates submitted by the governments of their country, all of whom must prove they are of high calibre and have sufficient experience, either as a judge, a top-level lawyer or an academic. They must also prove they have what the Convention calls a ‘high moral character’. The judges are elected for a nine year term, and can be re-elected. At that time, there was no age limit: nowadays judges must retire at 70.
Candidates for the post don’t necessarily have to come from the country in question – during that first election Ireland proposed two Irish and one German lawyer and Sweden had a Belgian judge on its list. They do have to be free of any political influence from their own country, and they are not allowed to do anything that might compromise that independence. However, judges sit on cases that concern their own country, helping their colleagues to understand the context of the cases they are asked to judge. Take a walk through the Court’s history with this short film: European Court of Human Rights Anniversary Film.