European Court of Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights , an international treaty drawn up within the Council of Europe, was opened for signature in Rome in 1950 and entered into force in 1953. The Convention’s importance lies not only in the scope of the fundamental rights that it protects, but also in the system of protection established in Strasbourg to examine alleged violations and ensure that States comply with their obligations under the Convention. Thus, the European Court of Human Rights was set up in 1959. 

Under the original system, three institutions were responsible for enforcing the obligations undertaken by the Contracting States: the European Commission of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. All applications lodged under the Convention by individual applicants and Contracting States were the subject of a preliminary examination by the Commission, which decided whether they were admissible. If a complaint was declared admissible, and where no friendly settlement was reached, the Commission drew up a report establishing the facts and expressing a non-binding opinion on the merits of the case. The Commission and/or the Government of the State in question could then decide binding adjudication. If the case was not brought before the Court, it was decided by the Committee of Ministers.

Since 1 November 1998, when Protocol No. two of these institutions have been replaced by a single full-time European Court of Human Rights, and individual applicants have been entitled to submit their cases directly to the Court. 

Over the past half-century the Court has delivered more than 12,000 judgments. Its rulings are binding on the States concerned and have obliged governments to amend legislation Through the Court’s case-law, the European Convention on Human Rights has become a dynamic and powerful instrument in the response to new challenges and theongoing promotion of the rule of law and democracy in Europe. 

The Court’s seat is the Human Rights Building in Strasbourg, designed by the British architect Lord Richard Rogers. Since 50 years, the Court monitors respect for the human rights of the 800 million Europeans who live in the 47 States which have ratified the Convention.

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