The new President of the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza, who was elected in July 2011, took up his duties on 4 November 2011. He is the third British President in the history of the Court, following Lord McNair, who served as President of the Court from 1959 till 1965, and Sir Humphrey Waldock, who served from 1971 till 1974.
Sir Nicolas replaces Jean-Paul Costa (French), who has been the Court’s President since 19 January 2007. Having turned 70 years old on 3 November 2011, Mr. Costa was required by Article 23 § 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights to step down.
Nicolas Dušan Bratza was born in 1945, the son of a famed Serbia concert violinist and a member of the Russell family, which has produce three generations of British Law Lords. He attended a Roman Catholic college in Wimbledon, south-west London before studying law at the University of Oxford. He taught law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was called to the UK Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in 1969. He was appointed Junior Counsel to the Crown in 1979 and became a Queen’s Counsel in 1988. In 1993, he was appointed a Recorder of the Crown Court.
In 1993 Judge Bratza was elected as the UK Member of the European Commission of Human Rights. In 1998, he was appointed a High Court judge, and in same year, when the Commission was replaced by the permanent European Court of Human Rights, Nicolas Bratza was elected as the Judge in respect of the United Kingdom. He was a Section President from 1998-2000 and from 2001-2007. He has been a Vice-President of the Court since 19 January 2007. A judge at the Court since it became a full-time institution in 1998, Sir Nicolas is "simply one of the judges with the largest institutional memory."
Jean-Paul Costa was born in 1941 and studied in Paris at the Institute of Political Studies, the Law Faculty and the National School of Administration. From 1985 to 1986 he chaired the French delegation during the negotiations for the Treaty between France and the United Kingdom for the channel fixed link. From 1989 to 1993 he was Assessor of a Chamber in the Judicial Division of the Conseil d’Etat and from 1993 to 1998 he was the President of a Chamber. He was also Associate Law Professor at the Universities of Orléans and Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). He has been a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights since 1 November 1998, Section President since 1 May 2000 and Vice-President since 1 November 2001.
The European Court of Human Rights is composed of one judge in respect of each of the 47 States which have ratified the European Convention. Judges work in five Sections - each with a Section President - from which Chambers of seven judges are constituted. The Court also sits as a Grand Chamber of 17 Judges.
Much of this report is taken from the 4 November 2011 Press Release of the European Court of Human Rights.