Scope and missions of the Court
(aka ECHR - European Court of Human Rights)
in Strasbourg (a French town near the German border) is the key
judicial institution to make the human rights of 800 million Europeans
The law to apply: the "Convention"
In practice, the CEDH is the authority in charge of supervising the
compliance by the 47 contracting States (*) to the.
European Convention for the Protection ofHuman Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (*)
(*) Blatant non-members are Belarus ...and the European Union
itself, but this last one will apply soon.
(**) See an abstract of that Convention's content
at the end of this article.
The Court has direct links with the Council of Europe (located in the same
Actually, no State can be a member of this Council if it does not sign the
Convention and thus does not adhere to the Court jurisdiction.
Every State that is a member of the Council of Europe and is therefore a
party to the Convention has one judge in the Court.
This is the only international judicial institution in which every member
is represented by one judge.
But in practice the judges do not act under the influence of their own
nations as they coordinate their decisions on the basis of the Convention
Notes (confusions to avoid):
with the European Parliament
(located also in Strasbourg) which is the legislative body of
the European Union that comprises 27 member states.
* Also, do not confuse the ECHR with
the Court of Justice of the European Communities,
in Luxembourg, which settles claims about the interpretation
and application of the European Union treaties and laws.
The atrocities of World War II played an important part in creating the
Court in 1950. It became fully operational in 1959.
After the fall of the Berlin wall, it got and overhaul in 1998 that gave it
a full independence and judicial authority.
How it works
Applications against contracting States for Human rights violations by
those States or their national courts, can be brought before the Court
by other States, other parties or individuals.
Private individuals have access to the ECHR without
outside filter and they make the bulk of the cases that the Court
Execution of decisions
Any decision of the Court (except if it is only an advisory opinion) is
binding on the member State involved and must be complied with by
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe supervises the
execution of its judgments.
Although it cannot force States to comply, it can apply sanctions of
which the ultimate one is expulsion from the Council of Europe.
Its results and influence
most accomplished and exemplary international judicial body.
One of the strengths of the Court, in addition to the fact that each
member country is represented by one judge, is that it applies a set
of principles (see in the last section of this article what the
Convention guarantees and what it prohibits) more than precise
laws and regulations.
This allows it to set its own jurisprudence (case law), to override
some national laws (and in addition to ask the States to change or adjust
Its record is impressive, not only in comparison to that of all other
international judicial entities.
It developed through numerous cases (over 12,000 judgments to
date), the most extensive jurisprudence (case law) in human right
Simplified procedures were decided to deal with cases that are
irrelevant or repetitive and easy to deal with, so as not to create
delays for the trickiest ones
The Court exerts a deep influence on the laws and social realities
of member States.
Also its precedents are considered a universal beacon in the field of
Human Rights for lawmakers and lawyers worldwide.
|A stain however on those achievements, the protection
the Court granted to some oppressive cults, based on a
superficial interpretation of the article 9 of the Convention.
Repartition of judgments
Since it was established in 1959 the Court has delivered about 18,000
judgments. Nearly half of the them concerned 5 member States: Turkey
(3,095), Italy (2,312), the Russian Federation (1,604), Romania (1,113)
and Poland (1,070).
42 % of those judgments addressed national courts that were
found in violation as regards the length of proceedings or the right
to fair trials.
What the Convention
guarantees or prohibits
The Convention and its Protocols guarantee,
- the right to life;
- the right to a fair hearing in civil and criminal cases;
- the right to respect for private and family life;
- freedom of expression;
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
- the right to an effective remedy;
- the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions;
- the right to vote and to stand for election.
They prohibit, in particular:
- torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
- slavery and forced labour;
- arbitrary and unlawful detention;- discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms
set out in the Convention;
- the expulsion or removal by a State of its own nationals;
- the death penalty;
- the collective expulsion of foreign nationals.
For more information
- Many precise examples of the judgments delivered.
- The list of the 47 contracting States
- And many other details.
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