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European Court of Human Rights

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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.

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

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is part of the Council of Europe and was set up in Strasbourg in 1959. It rules on applications relating to breaches of the rights enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. These are either individual applications or inter‑state cases from contracting states against each other.

The Parliamentary Assembly elects one judge for each member state of the Council of Europe. The judges act independently, i.e. not in the name of their respective countries. Prof. Anja Seibert‑Fohr has been the German judge at the Court since 2020.

Pursuant to the Convention, the Court’s judgments are binding on the states concerned. If the Court finds there has been a violation of the Convention, it can, in accordance with Article 41, afford just satisfaction to the injured party. In 2020 the Court issued a total of 871 judgments relating to over 1900 applications. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe monitors the enforcement of the Court’s judgments by the member states.

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 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 also contracting states to the Convention.

The admissibility of an application depends on whether all domestic remedies have been exhausted. A prerequisite in Germany is generally that the applicant must have appealed unsuccessfully to the Federal Constitutional Court against the infringement of their rights. Germany was involved in eleven judgments of the Court in 2020, and in a total of eight in 2019. Hearings of the Court are generally public. Judgments are issued in the official languages of the Council of Europe (English and French).

Over the past 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. Nonetheless, over 60,000 hearings were pending as of 31 December 2020.

The ECHR in 50 questions

The European Convention on Human Rights – A living instrument

Website of the Court


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