Members of Parliament are often asked how constituents can take a case to the European Court of Human Rights. This Commons Library briefing summarises the main features of the process, and emphasises recent changes to it.Jump to full report >>
Members of Parliament are often asked how constituents can take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
There is lots of information for applicants and lawyers on the Court’s website. This note summarises the main features of the process such as the need to exhaust all domestic remedies first, and emphasises recent changes such as the new requirement that the applicant has suffered ‘significant disadvantage’.
Firstly, all applications must be validly submitted.
There are detailed rules on how to fill in the official application form, and a six-month deadline for sending it.
These rules have recently been tightened further, largely because of the large number of complaints made to the Court. For instance, the application and any supporting documents – including any additional information requested by the Court – must all be posted within six months of the final decision by the highest competent national authority.
If these rules are not met, the Court can refuse even to register the case.
The next stage is for the Court to decide if a case is ‘admissible’ (in other words, whether judges will go on look to at the merits of the case). Most cases are ruled inadmissible.
The main conditions that must be met are:
There are several stages to the Court’s processes:
Nearly all the proceedings are conducted in writing. Anything the applicant would like to communicate with the Court must be in writing, and the applicant is informed in writing of any decision taken by the Court.
Although applicants do not need a lawyer for the initial stages, it could help them meet the complex admissibility requirements.
If the case proceeds, they will need a lawyer.
In some circumstances the Court can grant legal aid.
Finally, it is important to note that the Strasbourg Court – which is part of the 47-country Council of Europe – is nothing to do with the EU.
The EU has its own court in Luxembourg, the Court of Justice of the EU, which rules on interpretation of EU law and treaties, and can hear some types of cases from individuals alleging a breach of those rules.
Commons Briefing papers SN05353
Author: Arabella Lang