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Human rights and law
Human rights and law

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3.5 The European Court of Human Rights

Section II of the European Convention on Human Rights comprises thirty-three articles, which are all related to the setting up and conduct of proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights. They include, for example, the power to make rules governing how applications are made to the Court, how the Court is conducted, how judges are appointed to the Court and their period of appointment. Each HCP is able to appoint one judge to the European Court of Human Rights.

In its original form the European Convention on Human Rights provided for complaints to undergo a preliminary examination by the Commission, which determined whether the complaint was admissible within the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, individuals were not entitled to bring their cases before the Court. Once admissibility was confirmed, the Commission tried to facilitate a friendly settlement between the parties. If this was not possible then the Commission prepared a report establishing the facts and expressing its opinion on the merits of the case, which was submitted to the Committee of Ministers. The Commission and/or any HCP concerned then had a period of three months following the transmission of the report to the Committee of Ministers within which to bring the case before the Court for a final binding adjudication. Where the case was not referred to the Court, the Committee of Ministers would then decide whether there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and, if appropriate, award ‘just satisfaction’ to the victim. The Committee of Ministers supervised the execution of the Court's judgments.

The Commission existed until the entry into force of Protocol 11 in 1998. This reformed the system and substituted a full-time single Court for the previous system of Commission, Court and Committee of Ministers.

Section III of the European Convention on Human Rights contains eight articles under the heading ‘Miscellaneous Provisions’. These deal with administrative and formal matters, such as: territorial application – the right of an HCP to make a reservation from some part or parts of the European Convention on Human Rights (when ratifying it, if some existing law in its jurisdiction was not in conformity with the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights); and the arrangements for signature and ratification. Article 59 provided that the European Convention on Human Rights should come into force after ten HCPs had signed their instruments of ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights and deposited them with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

In Activity 4 you will consider some of the recent activities of the European Court of Human Rights as reported on their website.

Activity 4: Case law in the EctHR

Timing: 0 hours 20 minutes

Go to the following website for the European Court of Human Rights [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] : Judgements – .

Spend 10 minutes familiarising yourself with the website. What type of matters has the court been considering recently? Were the matters brought by individuals or member states?


The purpose of this activity was for you to explore and learn more about the structure of the court website, the information it contains and the range of matters that the court is required to consider.

When familiarising yourself with the ECtHR website you may have selected pending cases. Here you would have seen a list of scheduled hearings, date and time, parties and the court of hearing (Section 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the Grand Chamber).

Alternatively, you may have selected case law. This takes you to a database of case law of the ECtHR. If you had selected either the list of recent judgments or the list of recent decisions from the menu on the left-hand side, you would have seen a list of decisions and judgments. For example, between 19 January 2006 and 24 January 2006 there were cases involving Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Poland and Turkey. Two cases involved Article 10, six cases involved Article 6, one case involved Article 11 and one case involved Article 14.

If, however, you had selected HUDOC, you would have been taken to the search page of the database.

The website contains a great deal of information about the court and is a useful resource for any student of human rights law.