Sir Nicolas Bratza

The British Institute of Human Rights this week announced the appointment of Sir Nicolas Bratza as its new President.

Bratza is both a former serving judge in the European Court of Human Rights (for the United Kingdom) and its past president. Last year, when giving his Presidential address at the Court's opening of its judicial year, he highlighted '[t]he strong protection given by the Court to private sexual relations, in particular private homosexual relations' as one of the Court's 'achievements [that] stand out'.

Readers with longer memories might remember one of Bratza's earlier roles in the Court in respect of human rights and homosexuality. Bratza acted, with Brian Kerr, as counsel for the UK government in Dudgeon v the United Kingdom, in which he defended the blanket criminalization of all male homosexual acts in Northern Ireland. It was only as a result of the success of Dudgeon v the United Kingdom in 1981 that the UK Government were forced to partially decriminalize male homosexual acts in private between adults.

Jeffrey Dudgeon, reflecting on his landmark case in the Court on the 30th anniversary of the judgment in 2011, noted:

'Nicolas Bratza, who for the London government resisted my case is now, as Sir Nicolas Bratza, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, while Brian Kerr who acted for the Northern Ireland Government became our Lord Cheif Justice as Lord Kerr. Backing bigotry did them no damage'.