European Court of Human Rights


The European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, deals with complaints relating to breaches of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).

European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights © picture-alliance / ANP XTRA

The ECHR is an international agreement under which the member states of the Council of Europe have undertaken to guarantee their citizens basic civil and political rights. All member states of the Council of Europe are obliged to ratify the Convention.

The Court deals with complaints from individual applicants (against a Contracting Party of the Convention) and with complaints from Contracting Parties against each other.

The admissibility of an application depends on whether all domestic remedies have been exhausted. A prerequisite in Germany is that the plaintiff must have appealed unsuccessfully to the Federal Constitutional Court against an infringement of his or her rights. Hearings of the Court are public. Judgements are issued in the official languages of the Council of Europe (English and French).

If the Court finds there has been a violation of the ECHR, it can, according to Article 41 thereof, afford just satisfaction to the injured party. The parties to a dispute are legally bound to accept the Court’s judgements and must take the necessary measures to implement them.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe monitors the enforcement of the Court’s judgements. This mechanism ensures that a Court judgement against a member state is pursued at political level in the Council of Europe until such time as the state declares the judgement to have been enforced.

Within the Committee of Ministers, Germany is a staunch supporter of the timely and full enforcement of Court judgements. The obligation to enforce judgements handed down by the Court naturally also applies to Germany. Professor Angelika Nußberger has served as the German judge at the Court since January 2011.

Over the past several years, the Court has received huge numbers of applications. As a result of various reforms implemented in recent years, the Court is now better equipped to deal with its workload and its backlog has been significantly reduced. In 2016, a total of 18 judgements were issued in cases involving Germany. In four of these, the Court held that the ECHR had in fact been violated.

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