What is the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is an international Court based in Strasbourg, France. It belongs to the Council of Europe in which all the states of Europe except Belarus take part. It consists of 47 judges, the same number of member states that are in the Council of Europe and have signed the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The judges do not represent their state but are independent.
What violations are being dealt with by the ECtHR?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) implements the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This Convention protects, inter alia, the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence, the right of the accused to have the lawyer of his/her choice, to have rights in his defense, to examine witnesses, the right to family and private life, the right to freedom of religion, thought, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, the right to marriage, the right to equality, the right to the enjoyment of property and possessions, and so on.
The Court of Strasbourg is a significant and substantial watchdog of these rights through its rich case law.
How can I apply before the ECtHR?
You must be a private individual or legal entity (a company, an association, an association of persons) and at the same time a victim of a violated right. You must also have exhausted all legal remedies in your country, that is, have recourse to the National High Court (Supreme Court, State Council, etc.), in which you first have to report the violation. Once the irrevocable decision of the Supreme Court has been issued, you have 6 months to file your application. This deadline will be of 4 months after the entry into force of the 15th ECHR Protocol. The Court is responsible for examining allegations of breach of the Convention following individual appeals.
In order to appeal, what are the expenses and fees?
There is no cost (no fees, no stamps etc.) in order to appeal. The proceedings before the Court are free of charge since the ECtHR does not charge the applicant of any expense. Your only costs are the costs for the posting of the application and correspondence with the Court (usually through registered letters) and your lawyer’s fees.
Who is my opponent in the ECtHR?
The “opponent “ in this case is only the State against which the application is directed and it is never the individual who was the litigant before the national courts. The appeal must necessarily take place against one or more States which have ratified the Convention. If the application is directed against a third State or an individual, it is dismissed as inadmissible.
Do I need a lawyer to appeal and for the proceedings before the ECtHR?
It is not required at the outset and therefore the applicant can appeal directly. However, it is necessary for the lawyer to make remarks at the stage the appeal is notified to the State. If it is not economically viable, the applicant may be granted legal aid at this stage of the proceedings, if this is deemed necessary. The application form is relatively difficult to complete and one also needs to be aware and familiar with the ECtHR case-law. It is undoubtedly best for a lawyer to handle the case for better results.
In which language do I appeal?
In your native language or in English or in French, which are the official languages of the Court. However, at the stage after the notification of the complaint to the requested State for comments, correspondence and comments must be written in English or French.
Is there an interim measure procedure before the ECtHR? Are the decisions regarding interim measures applicable?
The applicant can undoubtedly have recourse to interim measures. The ECtHR examines the case immediately and a decision can be taken speedily, maybe in two days. If the application for interim measures is granted, the Court requests the State to take the adequate measures until it has taken a decision on the merits of the case. Most of the time the Court asks the state not to expel anyone to a state where he/she could be sentenced to death or tortured. States are almost always in compliance with the Court’s suggestions regarding precautionary measures. However, sometimes some States do not comply. They are at risk of being convicted by the Court for failure to comply with their obligations under Article 34.
Do I need to go to Strasbourg in order to file my complaint?
The application is sent only by registered letter or by courier. You do not have to travel to Strasbourg or send a lawyer to deposit it.
When the European Court of Human Rights examines my case, should I or my lawyer appear in Strasbourg?
The process is usually written. The applicant does not have to go with his / her lawyer in Strasbourg either to file the appeal or for its hearing. The hearing of the case takes place before a Council and not in an open hearing. The ECtHR may decide that the case will be heard before audience, and in that case asks the applicant to be represented in Strasbourg. An oral hearing takes place in cases that may change the Court’s case-law.
What is in a few words the procedure before the Strasbourg Court?
The stages of the proceedings before the ECtHR are basically two after receipt of the application by the Registry of the Court of Justice. The examination of the admissibility and the examination of the substance of the appeal. An appeal may follow different routes during its examination.
A one-member panel will declare the application inadmissible, where this is obvious. Such a decision shall not be open to any appeal.
The Three-Member Committee will rule on a case that raises issues for which there is settled case law.
The (7-member) Section will notify the case to the State for comments. In this case, an exchange of views between the parties will take place.
The Court then decides whether it is necessary to hold a hearing, which takes place in exceptional cases.
Finally, the Chamber issues a decision which is not enforceable until after the expiry of the three-month period within which the applicant or the Government may request referral of the case to the (16-member) Grand Chamber for reconsideration. If the referral is accepted by the Board of the Grand Chamber, the case shall be re-examined, if necessary by a hearing. The case before the Grand Chamber is irrevocable.
How is a decision published?
The decision of the ECtHR is published on the Internet site of the Court and is also communicated to the applicant.
If I lose a case before the European Court of Human Rights, do I have to pay court costs?
If the application is rejected for any reason, your will never be charged with legal costs; on the other hand, if your appeal is admissible, the state against whom you are directed will be ordered to pay your legal costs, provided of course that legal documents have been submitted before the ECtHR.
If my application is accepted, what is my benefit? Can the case be re-examined in my country?
In this case, the European Court of Human Rights grants a sum of money to the applicant (non-pecuniary or pecuniary damages or both) and expenses. Another important benefit is that, depending on national law, the case may be re-examined before the national courts (reopening or resuming of the proceedings). In Greece, proceedings concerning criminal and administrative cases, the State Council and the Court of Auditors’ cases are re-examined, in accordance with the law.
If legal costs are awarded to me when will I get the sum and how?
If legal cost and expenses are awarded to you, the state must usually deposit the amount to your bank account within three months of the day the decision becomes irrevocable.
If my application is not admissible before the ECtHR, is there another international tribunal to appeal for my case?
In this case you have another chance. You can appeal before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, based in Geneva, Switzerland. This Commission applies the International Convention on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). No hearing takes place before this Commission and the deadline is five (5) years after the final judgment of the national court. You can appeal both if your application was dismissed by the ECtHR as inadmissible but also if it was dismissed on the merits.