Difference Between the European Court of Justice and the Court of Human Rights

In the realm of international law, there are various courts and tribunals responsible for upholding justice and ensuring the protection of human rights. Two of the most prominent institutions in this regard are the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While they both play crucial roles in the European legal framework, it is important for lawyers and legal professionals to understand their distinct functions and jurisdictions. This article aims to provide a comprehensive comparison of the ECJ and the ECtHR, shedding light on their differences, scope, and authorities.

European Court of Justice (ECJ)

  • The European Court of Justice, established in 1952, is the judicial authority of the European Union (EU). It is primarily responsible for ensuring the uniform interpretation and application of EU law among member states. The ECJ consists of one judge from each member state, safeguarding the independence and impartiality of its rulings. Its key functions include:
  • Interpreting EU legislation: The ECJ interprets and clarifies the scope and meaning of EU treaties, directives, and regulations, ensuring consistent application across member states.
  • Resolving disputes between member states: The ECJ acts as a legal arbiter, settling conflicts arising between EU member states over the interpretation or application of EU law.
  • Judicial review: It has the power to assess the legality of EU acts, ensuring compliance with the principles and objectives outlined in the EU treaties.

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

  • The European Court of Human Rights, established in 1959, is a separate entity from the EU and forms part of the Council of Europe. Its primary responsibility is to protect and enforce human rights as outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Key features of ECtHR include:
  • Individual complaints mechanism: The ECtHR provides an avenue for individuals and groups to submit complaints against member states for human rights violations. It ensures that member states adhere to the human rights standards set by the ECHR.
  • Advisory opinions: The ECtHR has the power to provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by relevant bodies, such as the Committee of Ministers or national courts.
  • Supervisory role: It monitors the implementation of judgments and ensures that member states comply with the rulings handed down by the Court.

Key Differences Between the ECJ and the ECtHR

  1. Jurisdiction: The ECJ deals primarily with the interpretation and application of EU law, while the ECtHR focuses on ensuring the protection of human rights as outlined in the ECHR.
  2. Membership: The ECJ consists of one judge per member state, appointed by their respective governments, whereas the ECtHR has one judge per member state of the Council of Europe.
  3. Applicability of decisions: The ECJ decisions are binding on member states, requiring them to implement the judgments, while the ECtHR decisions function as non-binding, but influential, recommendations to member states.
  4. Subject matter: The ECJ primarily deals with issues related to EU law and the functioning of the EU, while the ECtHR addresses human rights violations committed by member states.

Conclusion

Although closely related, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights serve distinct roles within the European legal framework. While the former focuses on ensuring the uniform interpretation and application of EU law, the latter safeguards human rights and enforces compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. Understanding the jurisdiction and functions of these institutions is crucial for lawyers and legal professionals involved in cases that pertain to EU law or human rights. By navigating these differing roles, legal practitioners can adeptly guide their clients and seek appropriate legal remedies.

Iryna Berenstein
Associated Partner
Mrs. Berenstein is a distinguished and outstanding lawyer with profound experience and exceptional legal knowledge in the field of International Private Law, Financial Law, Corporate Law, investment regulation, Compliance, Data Protection, and Reputation Management.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ECHR and ECtHR the same?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR or ECtHR), also known as the Strasbourg Court, is a Council of Europe international court that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights.
What is the European Court of Human Rights?
Established in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights adjudicates on applications from individuals or states alleging breaches of civil and political rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998, it operates full-time, allowing direct applications from individuals.
What is the difference between the General Court and the European Court of Justice?
The CJEU comprises two courts: the Court of Justice, handling preliminary rulings from national courts, specific annulment actions, and appeals; and the General Court, dealing with annulment actions by individuals, companies, and sometimes EU governments.
Why is the ECJ referred to as a supranational Court?
The EU's supranational legal system, centered on individuals, mandates the ECJ to exert strong authority in interpreting Treaties, national laws, and overseeing national courts.
Is the UK still under the jurisdiction of the ECJ?
The UK infrequently faces the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and generally has a higher success rate than most EU states. Post-Brexit, the government plans to terminate the ECJ's direct jurisdiction, though its role is still being negotiated.