Since 1998, the European Court of Human Rights has operated as a full-time court, and people can apply to it directly. In addition, the European court, also known as Strasbourg Court, serves a huge role in the European Committee of Social Rights, which manages member countries’ respect for civil and political rights.
The international court, housed in the Human Rights Building, is a magnificent building designed in 1994 by the British architect Lord Richard Rogers. From here, the European Court of Human Rights monitors the respect for human rights protection of over 700 million Europeans in the 47 member states, which ratifies the European convention.
The European Court of Human Rights has jurisdiction to decide applications of individuals and states concerning violation of human rights, generally known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
However, it can’t take up a case on its initiative. In addition, the individual or group submitting the complaint doesn’t have to be a citizen of a state party. Nonetheless, complaints submitted to the court must involve violations committed by a state party to the convention that directly affected a complaint.
By November 2018, there were 47 state parties to the convention, which included member countries of the Europe council and EU. Most of these states have since ratified one or more additional protocols to the convention that protects additional human rights.
It’s important to note that up until 16 September 2022, the Russian Federation was a member of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organization and includes 47 member states. 27 are from the EU. All members of the state in the Council of Europe have signed the European Convention on Human Rights; a treaty meant to protect human rights and the rule of law. The other roles include:
The official languages used in the Council of Europe are English and French, with its headquarters at Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg. Member states finance the Council of Europe based on population and wealth.
The Council of Europe’s main role includes addressing challenges of common concern to the member countries. These include human rights violations, drug abuse, migration, crime prevention, environmental protection, etc. To do this, the council uses more than 160 international treaties and conventions between various European states and domestic courts.
The convention is an international treaty within the Europe Council, established in 1949 in Strasbourg during the first post-war to unify European nations. The main role of the convention is to protect the people against human rights violations within the council of Europe, which is all 47 member states, including the UK.
The convention guarantees rights and fundamental freedoms while prohibiting unfair and harmful practices. The convention secures:
The court’s role is to ensure that it resolves as many cases as possible. Therefore, it’s organized into five administrative entities, each with a judicial chamber. Each section comprises a president, a vice president, and some judges.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Europe Council selects the 47 court judges and forms a list of qualified applicants recommended by the member states. Inside the court, judges work in four judicial formations as follows;
Every application to the European Court of Human Rights must comply with the requirements outlined in Article 47 of the Rules of Court. Before applying, you must know that the court regularly changes its rules while exercising its judicial functions based on domestic laws. For example, in 2014, the court began applying more stringent requirements for personal applications.
You can get an application form online, which you must fill out completely. Ensure that you also attach all requested documentation and attach to the application. Then, submit the application via postal mail with no legal costs.
Most applications are declared inadmissible since the applicants fail to adhere to the admissibility criteria. This includes thoroughly filling out the application form or failing to attach the necessary documents. Therefore, ensure you read all the required information before filling out the application to get the court’s judgments.
You can also check out published videos on admissibility conditions from the European Court of Human Rights website on how to properly fill out the application form.
It’s important to note that public hearings are rare; hence proceedings are mainly conducted in writing. Also, there is no cost for submitting an application. However, an applicant may apply for legal aid to cover any expenses that arise during proceedings.
You don’t need a lawyer to lodge a complaint, but if the court case is declared admissible, a lawyer must represent you in any court hearing.
Applications go through two phases, admissibility and merit. The nature of the case determined the speed and course of court proceedings. However, applicants need to know that it may take months or years to receive judgments.
After application to the European Court of Human Rights, these applications go through two phases. These are:
Upon receiving an application, the court must determine if it meets all the admissibility requirements. Either a single judge, a committee’s three judges, or a chamber’s seven judges make the decision. The admissibility criteria include the following:
An application must meet these requirements, failure to which it’s declared inadmissible and can’t proceed any further. Note that there’s no appeal for inadmissibility.
If an application is admissible in court, it’s assigned to one of its five sections, and the court will inform the state of the complaint. Then, both parties have the opportunity to submit further information to the court.
The observations include any specific information requested by the chamber, section president, or any other relevant material that the parties decide is relevant. The chamber may consider both admissibility and merits independently or simultaneously. First, however, it must notify the parties of its plans.
When a chamber issues judgments on merits, there is a three-month period before a final decision. During this time, either party may request a referral of the application to the Grand Chamber. Nevertheless, the Grand Chamber only hears a few exceptional cases.
When the court makes judgments in favor of the applicant, it may award monetary compensation and require that the state cover the cost. However, if the court finds no violation, the applicant isn’t liable for the state’s legal expenses.
Before a court makes its decision based on merits, it will assist in arranging a friendly settlement. However, if a friendly settlement isn’t possible, the court will deliver judgments on the merits.
When the court considers both admissibility and merits of a case, the parties may include friendly settlements in the observation they submit to the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Convention on Human Rights has benefited the rights of women, children, people with disabilities, LGBTI people, and many more across Europe. Here are some of the ways the court has made people safer.
The European Court of Human Rights helps in advocating and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. In exceptional cases, a court may grant an applicant interim measures. These interim measures protect the applicant from further harm before or during court case proceedings.
However, interim measures are available where there is the risk of harm, such as death, or torture, serious breach of privacy, and are predominantly availed in deportation and extradition cases. Meanwhile, interim measures can be applied by the court in any case when the court considers that irreparable and permanent human rights violation might occur at the national level, regardless of the right in question. The convention on human rights ensures that human rights are upheld while prohibiting unfair practices.