I was browsing last night and found a nice summary article on the Council of Europe Brighton Conference. It outlines what has been agreed vis-a-vis procedural changes to the ECHR and will be useful to any of you who have exams on the ECHR coming up for that extra bit of credit - http://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2012/04/20/noreen-omeara-brighton-rocked-...
From my point of view, most striking are the time-limit and advisory opinion proposals. The time-limit for applications to the ECtHR is going to be cut by two months (therefore leaving a time limit of four months). There were other proposals to cut the time limit further than this however, thankfully, the smallest reduction was chosen. Despite the recent controversy over the time limit (i.e. Theresa May and Abu Qatada), I would not like to see it less than four months in the future. If the time limit is further whittled down in years to come this will only have the effect of discouraging human rights protection and increasing their abuse. A cut of two months is probably unlikely to have much effect on the case load of the court, so future temptations to cut the time limit again must be avoided.
Despite my slightly negative opinion surrounding the time limit, the advisory opinion idea is something that seems logical. As the article outlines, it would operate something similar to the preliminary reference procedure in EU law. Hopefully, this increase of subsidiarity would appease the nationalists who want to see our complete sovereignty returned and resultant withdrawal from the ECHR. The advisory role would ensure a uniform interpretation of the Convention and, if these opinions are binding, greater protection of human rights at the national level without having to resort to the ECtHR. Nevertheless, the route of appeal to the ECtHR remains an important part of human rights protection and must not become obstructed.
Apart from these procedural proposals, the Council of Europe seemed to continue the formality of reaffirming their commitment to human rights and their protection at state level; I put emphasis on the word formality. The countries who are not doing enough to secure human rights protection, for example Russia, need to put this formality into practice. No amount of procedural changes is substitute for the real issue: the need for states to take more action to protect human rights domestically.