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Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Published at 13:17 GMT

World: Europe

Reformed human rights court opens

A reformed European Court of Human Rights has been inaugurated in Strasbourg.

The reforms are meant to speed up the Court's work and clear its backlog of cases, cutting the average time to reach a judgement from six to three years.

The Court will in future work full-time and refer cases initially to new panels of judges to decide which deserve a hearing.

Other changes include limiting the terms of office for judges and enforcing retirement at the age of seventy.

More than four-and-a-half thousand cases have been registered this year with the court, which is overseen by the Council of Europe.

A BBC correspondent says those who run the court see its increased workload as a sign not of their own success, but of their failure so far to drive the human-rights message home to member governments.

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