Merkel Urges Russia on Court Reforms

STRASBOURG, France -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged Russia to stop blocking reforms of the European Court of Human Rights aimed at eliminating a backlog of nearly 80,000 cases.

The reforms would fast-track cases of human rights violations and simplify procedures for minor lawsuits that do not directly deal with human rights infringements. Russia is the only one of the 47 members of the Council of Europe -- the human rights watchdog that runs the court -- not to ratify the changes.

The State Duma has repeatedly refused to back the set of measures, known as Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The court needs to be properly reformed. That is what the whole system of human rights protection in Europe hinges on," Merkel told the council's parliamentary assembly.

There has been tension between Russia and other Council of Europe members over the court, which has ruled against Moscow in numerous cases.