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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR or ECtHR), also known as the Strasbourg Court, is an
international court International courts are formed by treaties A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and international organizations, but can sometimes include i ...
of the
Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the entire field of international relations, international aff ...

Council of Europe
which interprets the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
. The court hears applications alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the
human rights Human rights are moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...
enumerated in the Convention or its optional protocols to which a member state is a party. The European Convention on Human Rights is also referred to by the initials "ECHR". The court is based in
Strasbourg Strasbourg (, , ; german: Straßburg ; gsw, label=Bas Rhin Bas-Rhin (; Alsatian: ''Unterelsàss'', ' or '; traditional german: links=no, Niederrhein; en, Lower Rhine) is a department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, divi ...

Strasbourg
,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
. An application can be lodged by an individual, a group of individuals, or one or more of the other contracting states. Aside from judgments, the court can also issue advisory opinions. The convention was adopted within the context of the Council of Europe, and all of its 47 member states are contracting parties to the convention. The court's primary means of
judicial interpretation Judicial interpretation is the way in which the judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or in ...
is the living instrument doctrine, meaning that the Convention is interpreted in light of present-day conditions. International law scholars consider the ECtHR to be the most effective international human rights court in the world. Nevertheless, the court has faced challenges with verdicts not implemented by the contracting parties, as well as balancing caseload management with access.


History and structure

On 10 December 1948, the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harm ...

United Nations
adopted the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six p ...
which aims to promote the universal recognition of rights set out therein, in order to strengthen the protection of human rights at the international level. On 5 May 1949, the Council of Europe was created in
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London
, the members of the Council consider that the UN Declaration seeks to ensure the universal and effective recognition and application of the rights set forth therein. The court was established on 21 January 1959 on the basis of Article 19 of the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
when its first members were elected by the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Image:PACE logo 75ppi.png, The emblem of the PACE The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation international organisation dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy ...
. Initially, access to the court was restricted by the
European Commission of Human Rights European Commission of Human Rights was a special body of the Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic ...
, abolished in 1998. The court kept a low profile during its first years and did not accumulate much case law, first finding a violation in '' Neumeister v Austria'' (1968). The convention charges the court with ensuring the observance of the engagement undertaken by the contracting states in relation to the convention and its protocols, that is ensuring the enforcement and implementation of the European Convention in the member states of the Council of Europe.


As a court of the Council of Europe

The European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, is the best known body of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe (CoE) (french: Conseil de l'Europe, CdE) is an
international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the entire field of international relations, international affairs. It was established in 1947 and is published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the ...
founded in the wake of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
to uphold
human rights Human rights are moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...
,
democracy Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which people, the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to cho ...

democracy
and the
rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal of the , published by (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a compreh ...
in
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
. Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, with a population of approximately 820 million, and operates with an annual budget of approximately 500 million
euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro
s. The organisation is distinct from the 27-nation
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
(EU), although it is sometimes confused with it, partly because the EU has adopted the original
flag of Europe The flag of Europe or the European flag is an official symbol used by the Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-r ...

flag of Europe
created by the Council of Europe in 1955, as well as the
anthem of Europe "Anthem of Europe" is the anthem An anthem is a of , usually used as a symbol for a distinct group, particularly the s of . Originally, and in and religious contexts, it also refers more particularly to short sacred (still frequently seen ...
. No country has ever joined the EU without first belonging to the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is an official
United Nations observer The United Nations General Assembly has granted observer status to international organizations, entities, and non-member Sovereign state, states, to enable them to participate in the work of the United Nations General Assembly, though with limitati ...
.


Member states

The jurisdiction of the court has been recognized to date by all 47
member states of the Council of Europe The Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organization, international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold European Convention on Human Rights, human rights, dem ...
. On 1 November 1998, the court became a full-time institution and the
European Commission of Human Rights European Commission of Human Rights was a special body of the Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic ...
, which used to decide on admissibility of applications, was abolished by Protocol 11. The accession of new states to the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
following the
fall of the Berlin Wall The fall of the Berlin Wall (german: Mauerfall) on 9 November 1989 was a pivotal event in world history which marked the falling of the Iron Curtain The Iron Curtain was a political boundary dividing Europe Europe is a which is also ...
in 1989 led to a sharp increase in applications filed in the court. The efficiency of the court was threatened seriously by the large accumulation of pending applications. In 1999, 8,400 applications were allocated to be heard. In 2003, 27,200 cases were filed and the number pending rose to approximately 65,000. In 2005, the court opened 45,500 case files. In 2009, 57,200 applications were allocated, with 119,300 pending. At the time, more than 90 per cent of applications were declared to be inadmissible, and the majority of cases decided—around 60 per cent of the decisions by the court—related to what is termed ''repetitive cases'': where the court has already delivered judgment finding a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights or where well established
case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is calle ...
exists on a similar case. Protocol 11 was designed to deal with the backlog of pending cases by establishing the court and its judges as a full-time institution, by simplifying the procedure and reducing the length of proceedings. However, as the workload of the court continued to increase, the contracting states agreed that further reforms were necessary and in May 2004, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Protocol 14 was drafted with the aim of reducing the workload of the court and that of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which supervises the execution of judgments, so that the court could focus on cases that raise important human rights issues.


Judges

Judges are elected for a non-renewable nine-year term. The number of full-time judges sitting in the court is equal to the number of contracting states to the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
, currently 47. The convention requires that judges be of "high moral character" and have qualifications suitable for high judicial office, or be
jurists A jurist is a person with expert knowledge of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influ ...
of recognised competence. Each judge is elected by majority vote in the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Image:PACE logo 75ppi.png, The emblem of the PACE The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation international organisation dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy ...
from among three candidates nominated by each contracting state. Judges are elected whenever a sitting judge's term has expired or when a new state accedes to the convention. The retiring age of judges is 70, but they may continue to serve as judges until a new judge is elected or until the cases in which they sit have come to an end. Judges perform their duties in an individual capacity and are prohibited from having any institutional or similar ties with the state in respect of which they were elected. To ensure the independence of the court, judges are not allowed to participate in activity that may compromise the court's independence. Judges cannot hear or decide a case if they have a familial or professional relationship with a party. A judge can be dismissed from office only if the other judges decide, by a two-thirds majority, that the judge has ceased to fulfil the required conditions. Judges enjoy, during their term as judges, the privileges and immunities provided for in Article 40 of the Statute of the Council of Europe. The European Court of Human Rights is assisted by a registry made up of around 640 agents, of which a little less than half of lawyers divided into 31 sections. The registry carries out preparatory work for the judges., and performs the communication activities of the Court, with the applicants, the public and the press. The
Registrar A registrar is an official keeper of records made in a register. The term may refer to: Education * Registrar (education), an official in an academic institution who handles student records * Registrar of the University of Oxford, one of the seni ...
and the Deputy Registrar are elected by the Plenary Court.


Plenary court and administration

The plenary court is an assembly of all of the court's judges. It has no judicial functions. It elects the court's president, vice-president, registrar and deputy registrar. It also deals with administrative matters, discipline, working methods, reforms, the establishment of Chambers and the adoption of the Rules of Court. The President of the Court, the two vice-presidents (also section presidents) and the three other section presidents are elected by the Plenary Court, Section presidents are elected by the Plenary Court, a formation made up of the 47 elected judges of the Court. The mandate of the holders is for a renewable period of three years. They are renowned for their morality and competence. They must be independent and there is incompatibility with other functions. They cannot be revoked by their State of origin, but only by decision of their peers, taken by a two-thirds majority and for serious reasons. Currently, the president of the court is Robert Spano from Iceland and the two vice-presidents are Jon Fridrik Kjølbro from Denmark and Ksenija Turkovic from Croatia.


Jurisdiction

The court has
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
amongst the
member states of the Council of Europe The Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organization, international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold European Convention on Human Rights, human rights, dem ...
which includes almost every country in Europe except for
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City
and
Belarus , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niam ...

Belarus
. The jurisdiction of the court is generally divided into inter-state cases, applications by individuals against contracting states, and advisory opinions in accordance with Protocol No.2. Applications by individuals constitute the majority of cases heard by the court. A committee is constituted by three judges, chambers by seven judges, and a Grand Chamber by 17 judges.


Applications by individuals

Applications by individuals against contracting states, alleging that the state violated their rights under the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
, can be made by any person,
non-governmental organisation A non-governmental organization, or simply an NGO, is an organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of ...
, or group of individuals. Although the official languages of the court are English and French, applications may be submitted in any one of the official languages of the contracting states. An application has to be made in writing and signed by the applicant or by the applicant's representative. Once registered with the court, the case is assigned to a judge rapporteur, who can make a final decision on whether the case is inadmissible. A case may be inadmissible when it is incompatible with the requirements of ''ratione materiae'', ''ratione temporis'' or ''ratione personae'', or if the case cannot be proceeded with on formal grounds, such as non-exhaustion of domestic remedies, lapse of the six months from the last internal decision complained of, anonymity, substantial identity with a matter already submitted to the court, or with another procedure of international investigation. If the rapporteur judge decides that the case can proceed, the case is then referred to a chamber of the court which, unless it decides that the application is inadmissible, communicates the case to the government of the state against which the application is made, asking the government to present its observations on the case. The chamber of the court then deliberates and judges the case on its admissibility and its merits. Cases that raise serious questions of interpretation and application of the European Convention on Human Rights, a serious issue of general importance, or which may depart from previous
case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is calle ...
can be heard in the Grand Chamber if all parties to the case agree to the chamber of the court relinquishing jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber. A panel of five judges decides whether the Grand Chamber accepts the referral.


Interstate cases

Any contracting state to the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
can sue another contracting state in the court for alleged breaches of the convention, although in practice this is very rare. , five interstate cases have been decided by the court: * ''Ireland v. United Kingdom'' (no. 5310/71), judgement of 18 January 1978 on
inhuman and degrading treatment Inhuman or degrading treatment is treatment of persons which is contrary to human rights or dignity, but does not rise to the level of torture. It is forbidden by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 of the European Convention on Hu ...
in Northern Ireland (art. 3) * ''Denmark v. Turkey'' (no. 34382/97), judgement of 5 April 2000 ratifying a friendly settlement of 450,000 DKK regarding a Danish national detained in Turkey (art. 3) * '' Cyprus v. Turkey'' (IV) (no. 25781/94), judgements of 10 May 2001 on the treatment of missing persons (art. 2, 3 and 5), the right of return of Greeks who have fled to the south (art. 8, 13 and P1-1), the rights of Greeks still living in the north (art. 3, 8, 9, 10, 13, P1-1, P1-2) and trial by military courts (art. 6). A subsequent judgement of 12 May 2014 awarded €90 million in 'just satisfaction' (art. 41) * '' Georgia v. Russian Federation (I)'' (no. 13255/07), judgement of 3 July 2014 on the collective expulsion of Georgians from Russia (art. 3, 5, 13, 38, P4-4) and Russia not cooperating with the court (art. 38) * '' Georgia v. Russian Federation (II)'' (no. 38263/08), judgement of 21 January 2021


Advisory opinion

The Committee of Ministers may, by majority vote, ask the court to deliver an advisory opinion on the interpretation of the
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
, unless the matter relates to the content and scope of fundamental rights which the court has already considered.


''Erga omnes'' effects

ECtHR rulings have ''
erga omnes ''Erga omnes'' is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
'' effects (that is, they are potentially binding on all member states), because the court "determines issues on public-policy grounds in the common interest, thereby extending human rights jurisprudence throughout the community of European Convention States", although ''erga omnes'' effect "is not regarded by all States Parties as a legal requirement".


Procedure and decisions

After the preliminary finding of admissibility the court examines the case by hearing representations from both parties. The court may undertake any investigation it deems necessary on the facts or issues raised in the application and contracting states are required to provide the court with all necessary assistance for this purpose. The
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by t ...
requires all hearings to be in public, unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying the holding of a private hearing. In practice the majority of cases are heard in private following written pleadings. In confidential proceedings the court may assist both parties in securing a settlement, in which case the court monitors the compliance of the agreement with the convention. However, in many cases, a hearing is not held. The judgment of the Grand Chamber is final. Judgments by the chamber of the court become final three months after they are issued, unless a reference to the Grand Chamber for review or appeal has been made. If the panel of the Grand Chamber rejects the request for referral, the judgment of the chamber of the court becomes final. The Grand Chamber is made up of 17 judges: the court's President and Vice-Presidents, the Section Presidents and the national judge, together with other judges selected by drawing of lots. Grand Chambers include a public hearing, which i
transmitted as a webcast on the ECHR site
After the public hearing, the judges deliberate. The court's chamber decides both issues regarding admissibility and merits of the case. Generally, both these issues are dealt with in the same judgment. In final judgments the court makes a declaration that a contracting state has violated the convention, and may order the contracting state to pay material and/or moral damages and the legal expenses incurred in domestic courts and the court in bringing the case. The court's judgments are public and must contain reasons justifying the decision. Article 46 of the convention provides that contracting states undertake to abide by the court's final decision. On the other hand, advisory opinions are, by definition, non-binding. The court has to date decided consistently that under the convention it has no jurisdiction to annul domestic laws or administrative practices which violate the convention. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is charged with supervising the execution of the court's judgments. The Committee of Ministers oversees the contracting states' changes to their national law in order that it is compatible with the convention, or individual measures taken by the contracting state to redress violations. Judgments by the court are binding on the respondent states concerned and states usually comply with the Court's judgments. Chambers decide cases by a majority. Any judge who has heard the case can attach to the judgment a separate opinion. This opinion can concur or dissent with the decision of the court. In case of a tie in voting, the President has the casting vote.


Exhaustion of domestic remedies

Article 35 of the European Convention on Human Rights establishes as a precondition on referral to the European Court of Human Rights, the exhaustion of domestic remedies. This condition is the consequence of the subsidiary jurisdiction of the supranational court, which monitors the application of the convention and seeks to eradicate human rights violations. The applicant must establish the inability of the national courts to remedy the breaches, by exercising the appropriate remedies effective and adequate, and in substance alleging a violation of the Convention.


Just satisfaction

The court may award
pecuniary {{Short pages monitor