European Court of Human Rights

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European Court of Human Rights
- ECHR -
State level Council of Europe
position Supranational judicial organ
founding 1959 (initiated)
1998 (permanent)
Headquarters Strasbourg FranceFranceFrance 
Chair Róbert Ragnar Spanó Island since 2020
Building of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights ( ECHR ) is a based on the European Convention on Human Rights equipped (ECHR) Court, headquartered in French Strasbourg , the acts of legislation , case law and administrative checks in respect of the violation of the Convention in all signatory countries. All 47 members of the Council of Europe have acceded to the ECHR . Therefore, with the exception of Belarus and the Vatican State, all internationally recognized European states, includingRussia , Turkey , Cyprus and the three Caucasian republics of Armenia , Azerbaijan and Georgia are under the jurisdiction of the ECHR. Anyone can appeal to the ECHR claiming that one of these states has violated a right under the Convention. The Icelandic judge Róbert Ragnar Spanó has been the president of the court since May 18, 2020 .

While the ECHR was only given limited powers within the framework of the protection system of the ECHR after it was founded in 1959 and its importance has therefore remained comparatively minor, it has gained enormous influence since its fundamental reform in 1998 at the latest. In the last few years in particular, the ECHR has issued numerous judgments that have not insignificantly interfered with the legal system of individual states and that have received a broad public response. At the same time, he is confronted with a steadily increasing number of complaints that have led to chronic overload. Various measures have recently been taken to deal with this problem, such as the adoption of the 14th Additional Protocol to the ECHR, which in particular makes it easier to reject complaints.


Establishment of the Court of Justice and developments by 1998

The European Convention on Human Rights , which came into force on November 3, 1953 , also provided for the establishment of a judiciary to ensure that the contracting states adhered to the guarantees guaranteed in it. Five and a half years passed before this project was implemented: after the judges were elected on January 21, 1959, the Court of Justice was constituted on April 20, 1959 as part of a special solemn session on the occasion of the ten-year anniversary of the Council of Europe. Corresponding to the number of states that had acceded to the ECHR at that time, the first court had 15 judges, including Hermann Mosler for Germany and Alfred Verdroß-Droßberg for Austria. In its third session on September 18, 1959, the ECHR elected Arnold McNair from Britain as its first President. In addition, the procedural rules were adopted.

Initially, the ECHR shared responsibility for monitoring the Convention with the European Commission for Human Rights (EKMR), which was set up in 1954 . The latter acted as the complaints authority, which subjected every complaint to a preliminary examination and either declared it inadmissible or reported to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Within three months of the submission of this report, the state concerned or the ECMR itself could refer the matter to the Court of Justice, which then issued a final and binding decision. Otherwise, the Committee of Ministers decided on the complaint.

In contrast to today, the ECHR was not initially designed as a permanent court. In addition, only one state complaint was admissible in principle. Individuals could only submit a complaint to the Commission if the state concerned had recognized this right in a declaration to that effect. As a result, the number of decisions of the ECHR remained small in the early years: by 1975 only twenty judgments were issued. The first judgment was dated July 1, 1961 and concerned the Lawless ./. Ireland.

With the increasing granting of the right of individual complaint, the importance of the Court grew. In the decades that followed, numerous additional protocols to the ECHR were passed, which not only expanded the human rights catalog, but also renewed the organization of the Court of Justice and made it easier for individuals to access the ECHR. The 9th Additional Protocol, which came into effect on October 1, 1994, allowed a direct individual complaint to the ECHR under certain conditions. However, this was still dependent on the approval of the respective member state.

In the entire period up to 2014, the state complaint was only applied twice, independently of the directly affected states, namely in 1968 after the coup in Greece and in 1982 after the coup in Turkey . Ludwig Minelli criticized this reluctance as a "pathetic failure". In contracting states in which the ECHR rights are "systematically disregarded", they should be enforced by other states, not by private individuals.

The new permanent court since the 11th Additional Protocol to the ECHR

The 11th Additional Protocol, which came into force on November 1, 1998, fundamentally redesigned the protective mechanism of the ECHR and marked the birth of the ECHR in its current form. The Court of Justice has been transformed into a permanent court, which meets all year round and is staffed with full-time judges. The individual complaint has become mandatory for all member states and is now to be addressed directly to the Court of Justice, which is the only body responsible for deciding on it. This was accompanied by the dissolution of the European Commission for Human Rights. The decision-making authority of the Committee of Ministers, whose competence was limited to monitoring the implementation of the judgments of the ECHR, was also lost.

The reform also led to an enormous increase in the number of complaints. In order to curb the burdens on the ECHR, which resulted in a significant increase in the duration of proceedings, the 14th Additional Protocol to the ECHR was passed on May 13, 2004. Its entry into force was delayed until June 1, 2010, as Russia refused to ratify it for a long time. In particular, it makes it easier to reject complaints. They can now also be declared inadmissible if the complainant does not suffer any significant disadvantage. If a complaint does not need further review, it can be rejected by a single judge. If the case law is well established, the committee made up of three judges may also decide on their merits. The judges' term of office is now nine years; re-election is not permitted.

One of the next challenges that the ECHR has to deal with is the aspiration of the European Union to join the ECHR in accordance with Art. 6 Paragraph 2 Clause 1 TEU and Art. 59 Paragraph 2 ECHR.


Plenary session of the ECHR

The plenary is the assembly of all 47 judges at the European Court of Human Rights. Article 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the ECHR defines the plenary as the European Court of Human Rights in plenary session .

The plenary has various tasks such as the creation and revision of the rules of procedure of the ECHR (Art. 25 lit. d ECHR), the election of the President of the Court of Justice, or the election of the Chancellor. It is convened by the President of the Court when the functions of the Court so request. If at least a third of the members of the Court so request, the President is obliged to convene the plenary. Regardless of this, it must convene the plenary session at least once a year.

The plenary has a quorum if at least two thirds of the judges of the Court of Justice are present.


Each signatory state to the Convention sends a judge to the ECHR in accordance with Article 20 . Accordingly, the Court of Justice currently has 47 judges.


The requirements for the judges of the ECHR are determined according to Article 21, Paragraph 1: According to this, the judges must enjoy a high moral reputation and either meet the requirements necessary to exercise high judicial offices or be legal scholars of a recognized reputation ( Article 21 Paragraph 1) . As a result, the majority of former high judges from the member states and professors with special knowledge of international law are currently working at the court.

However, a judge does not have to be a national of the country that proposed him. Therefore, the small states of Liechtenstein and San Marino were allowed to be represented in the ECHR by citizens of other states. There is currently a Swiss citizen in the court of justice for Liechtenstein. Until the 11th Additional Protocol came into force on November 1, 1998, the regulations were stricter insofar as Art. 38 sentence 2 old version stipulated that the Court of Justice could only have one judge from each state. This contributed to the fact that the Canadian Ronald St. John Macdonald worked for Liechtenstein from 1980 to 1998 as the only non-European judge at the ECHR.

For the choice of judges, criteria are also used that are not expressly listed in Art. 21 (1) ECHR, but, in the view of the ECHR, are implicitly derived from it and, in a certain way, specify it. This includes e.g. B. sufficient knowledge of at least one official language of the Court of Justice, as this is the only way of meaningful participation in the work of the Court of Justice.


The judges are elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe ( Art. 22 ), which gives them a high degree of democratic legitimation.

If a judge's post at the Court of Justice is to be filled, the convention state whose judge is leaving must first draw up a list of three candidates who meet the criteria of Article 21, Paragraph 1. The Parliamentary Assembly has to reject the list and ask the member state to submit a new one if the old one does not meet the requirements. A withdrawal by the member state is only possible until the end of the submission period.

The candidates are heard personally by a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly. Then the election takes place, whereby the judge is elected who has the majority of the votes cast.

Term of office

Since the 14th Additional Protocol came into force, the judges' term of office has been a uniform nine years without the possibility of re-election ( Art. 23, Paragraph 1). It does not begin with the election, but only with the date of assumption of office (Art. 2 Para. 1 and 2 Rules of Procedure). This is done by taking an oath or declaration before the plenary session or the President of the Court of Justice. (Art. 3 Rules of Procedure). For judges who were in office when the 14th Additional Protocol came into force, Art. 21 of this Protocol provides for transitional provisions. In . Article 23 . Paragraph 2 is set an age limit for judges: Your term ends early if they have completed 70 years of age.

A judge remains in office until his successor takes office. Beyond this point in time, according to Art. 23 (3) , he remains active in legal matters with which he has already dealt. This is specified in Art. 26, Paragraph 3 and Art. 24, Paragraph 4 of the Rules of Procedure in such a way that resigned judges should continue to deal with complaints whose merits they have already taken part in in the Chamber or Grand Chamber.

If the judge is prevented from taking part in a trial or if, in accordance with Art. 28 , resigns from exercising his office in a trial for serious reasons (e.g. in the event of bias ), the relevant nation must either find a replacement from the list of elected judges or Appoint judges ad hoc ( Art. 29 ).

A judge can only be dismissed if the other judges decide by a two-thirds majority that he no longer fulfills the necessary requirements ( Art. 23 Para. 4). This has never happened in the history of the ECHR. Furthermore, the term of office can end when the judge resigns (Art. 6 Rules of Procedure).


The judges belong to the Court in their personal capacity ( Art. 21 Para. 2). They are therefore not representatives of the states that have proposed them, and they are not bound by instructions. According to Article 51, they enjoy the privileges and immunities provided for in Article 40 of the Statute of the Council of Europe and the agreements concluded on the basis of that Article. They have the same privileges as diplomats are granted under national law.

Judges may not engage in any (further) activity that is incompatible with their independence, impartiality or the requirements of full-time employment in this office ( Article 21, Paragraph 3). Secondary activities are to be reported to the President of the Court of Justice (Art. 4 Rules of Procedure). Issues arising in this context are decided by the plenary session of the Court of Justice.

According to Article 25, the judges can influence the internal organization of the Court of Justice in various ways. They adopt the rules of procedure, form the ruling chambers of the Court of Justice and elect the President, the Vice-Presidents, the Presidents of the Chamber, the Registrar of the Court of Justice and his deputies.


The Tribunal consists of five sections, which are composed for three years according to geographical criteria and an even distribution of the sexes. The two vice-presidents and three other judges appointed by the plenary act as section presidents. They are supported and represented by the vice-presidents of the sections.

The judge of Ukraine is still in office according to Article 23, Paragraph 3, Clause 1 of the ECHR despite the expiry of her term of office, as no successor has yet been elected and has taken over her office.

According to Art. 26, the Court of Justice meets in single judges, committees, chambers and a grand chamber. The committee has three judges, the chamber with seven judges and the grand chamber with 17 judges.

President and Chancellery

The European Court of Human Rights is headed by a President and two Vice-Presidents, who are elected by the judges from among their number for a three-year term of office. The President represents the Court externally and chairs the plenary sessions of the Court of Justice, the Grand Chamber and the committees of five judges. The Court of Justice has been presided over by ten presidents from eight different member states of the Council of Europe. The current President has been the Icelander Róbert Ragnar Spanó since May 18, 2019 , the two Vice-Presidents are the German Angelika Nußberger and the Croatian Ksenija Turković .

President of the European Court of Human Rights
# Surname Beginning of the term of office Term expires nationality
1 Arnold McNair, 1st Baron McNair (1885–1975) September 15, 1959 * May 3, 1965 United Kingdom
2 René Cassin (1887–1976) May 20, 1965 June 15, 1968 France
3 Henri Rolin (1891–1973) September 27, 1968 5th May 1971 Belgium
4th Sir Humphrey Waldock (1904-1981) 5th May 1971 January 21, 1974 United Kingdom
5 Giorgio Balladore Pallieri (1905–1980) May 8, 1974 December 9, 1980 Italy
6th Gérard Wiarda (1906–1988) January 30, 1981 May 30, 1985 Netherlands
7th Rolv Ryssdal (1914–1998) May 30, 1985 February 18, 1998 Norway
8th Rudolf Bernhardt (* 1925) March 24, 1998 October 31, 1998 Germany
9 Luzius Wildhaber (1937-2020) November 1, 1998 January 18, 2007 Switzerland
10 Jean-Paul Costa (* 1941) January 19, 2007 November 3, 2011 France
11 Sir Nicolas Bratza (* 1945) November 4, 2011 October 31, 2012 United Kingdom
12 Dean Spielmann (* 1962) November 1, 2012 October 31, 2015 Luxembourg
13th Guido Raimondi (* 1953) November 1, 2015 4th May 2019 Italy
14th Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (* 1960) 5th May 2019 17th May 2020 Greece
15th Róbert Ragnar Spanó (* 1972) May 18, 2020 in office Iceland

* As the oldest member of the Court of Justice, Baron McNair also presided over the first session of the ECHR from February 23 to 28, 1959. The President was not elected until September 15, 1959.

The administrative business of the Court of Justice is carried out by a registry headed by a registrar who in turn is bound by the instructions of the President. The Chancellor and his deputies are elected by the judges for a five-year term.


The case law of the ECHR is described, among other things, as “dynamically evolving”. International recognition was not always given because the “state consensus […] is low”. There have already been difficulties in reaching an agreement, especially with Russia. In the case of electoral standards, there has been a significant change over time.


The ECHR provides for three types of proceedings in which the ECHR can be referred to a matter, namely

  • the individual complaint procedure ( Art. 34 ),
  • the state complaints procedure ( Art. 33 ) and
  • the expert opinion procedure ( Art. 47 ).

Individual complaint

In practice, the individual application under Art. 34 , in the literature human rights complaint called the most important instrument of human rights protection before the ECHR is. All natural persons and non-governmental organizations and groups of persons are granted the right to appeal to the ECHR, claiming in a Right to be violated from the Convention.

Initiation of the procedure

The formal requirements for the complaint can be found in Art. 47 Rules of Procedure. It must be submitted in writing to the ECHR in Strasbourg. Since January 1, 2014, the application form provided by the ECHR office, which is available in the languages ​​of all member states, must be used for this purpose. In the complaint, the relevant facts are to be described succinctly and to explain which Convention articles are considered violated and for what reasons. The complainant must also enclose copies of all documents relevant to the matter, such as court judgments and administrative acts.

An individual complaint can be submitted without a lawyer. Only when the complaint has been declared admissible and a statement from the government has been received by the Court of Justice does a lawyer compulsory (unless the Chamber President determines otherwise => see Art. 36, Paragraph 2 of the Rules of Procedure). If the applicant does not have a lawyer, the Court will ask him to appoint a lawyer when the complaint is served on the government. There is no legal basis for granting legal aid to needy applicants who cannot afford a lawyer; in practice, however, this is granted in such cases if the need is proven to the court.

From Art. 35 the further admissibility requirements for a complaint to the ECHR result:

  • Exhaustion of legal channels: First of all, the national court must be passed through, and no legal remedies may remain at national level (Art. 35 (1)). In Germany, this also includes proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court . The principle of subsidiarity also applies .
  • Deadline: The complaint must be submitted no later than six months after the final domestic decision ( Art. 35 (1)).
  • It may not be submitted anonymously ( Art. 35 Para. 2a).
  • It must not coincide with a previous complaint or have been submitted in the same form to another international authority ( Art. 35 Para. 2b).
  • It must not be incompatible with the Convention and the Protocols, manifestly unfounded or abusive ( Art. 35 Para. 3a).
  • With a few exceptions, the complainant must not have suffered only an insignificant disadvantage ( Art. 35 (3b)). According to Art. 20 (2) of the 14th Additional Protocol, this provision is not applied to complaints that were declared admissible before it came into force on June 1, 2010.

The ECHR ex officio examines the existence of the admissibility requirements. According to Art. 35 (4), he can reject an inadmissible complaint at any stage of the procedure. This is possible even if a complaint was originally declared admissible and only later became inadmissible.

In the cases provided for in Article 37 , the Court of Justice may also remove a complaint from its register.

Course of the proceedings

The President of the Court of Justice assigns the complaint to one of the five sections of the ECHR (Art. 52 I Rules of Procedure). He tries to ensure a fair distribution of complaints between the sections. Within the section, the complaint can be submitted to a single judge ( Art. 27 ), a committee ( Art. 28 ) or the Chamber ( Art. 29 ). If the examination by a committee or a chamber appears to be justified, the section president appoints a reporter from among the judges in accordance with Art. 49, Paragraph 2 of the Rules of Procedure. The latter can delegate the complaint to a single judge, a committee or the chamber if the section president does not order an examination by the committee or by the chamber. It can also request the parties to send relevant documents and has the task of providing reports and other material to support the committee or the chamber in the performance of its tasks.

Single judge

If the complaint is forwarded to the single judge, the judge can declare it inadmissible or delete it from the register if such a decision can be made without further examination ( Art. 27, Paragraph 1). According to Art. 49 Para. 1 Rules of Procedure, this is the case if the inadmissibility already results from the documents submitted by the complainant. Article 20 (2) sentence 2 of the 14th Additional Protocol provides, however, that the admissibility requirement of the not inconsiderable disadvantage (Article 35 (3b)) may not be examined by the single judge until June 1, 2012.

A declaration of inadmissibility or deletion from the register by the single judge is final ( Art. 27 Para. 2). If this is not done, he forwards the complaint to a committee or chamber for further examination in accordance with Art. 27 (3).


If the complaint is before the committee, which is composed of three judges, it has two options:

  • The complaint will be declared inadmissible or struck from the register if this decision can be made without further examination ( Art. 28 Para. 1a). The transitional regulation of Art. 20, Paragraph 2, Clause 2 of the 14th Additional Protocol also applies here.
  • The complaint is declared admissible and at the same time a decision is made about its merits. This is possible if the underlying question of the interpretation or application of this convention or the protocols to it is the subject of well-established case law of the Court of Justice ( Article 28.1b).

The meetings of the committee are not open to the public (Art. 22 Rules of Procedure). Both a decision according to paragraph 1a and a judgment according to paragraph 1b must be made unanimously. Both are incontestable. If the committee does not decide on the complaint itself, it must refer it to the Chamber for further examination in accordance with Art. 28 Paragraph 1 and Art. 53 Paragraph 6 Rules of Procedure.


If neither a single judge nor a committee decided on the complaint, the admissibility and merits are assessed by a seven-member chamber of the ECHR in accordance with Art. 29 (1).

The Small Courtroom of the ECHR - formerly the Commission meeting room

The board can, on the one hand, reject the appeal as inadmissible or delete it from the register without further investigation. Alternatively, it can request the parties to submit further documents that they consider to be relevant for assessing the admissibility and to submit written comments. This also applies to the member state concerned (Art. 54 Rules of Procedure). The decision on the admissibility can be made separately or combined with the decision on the merits ( Art. 29 ECHR, Para. 1, Art. 54A Rules of Procedure).

If the appeal has been declared admissible, the board can request the parties involved to submit further evidence and to submit comments (Art. 59 (1) Rules of Procedure). As a rule, the decision is made on the basis of the written pleadings; an oral hearing is the exceptional case and is only scheduled if the Chamber considers this to be necessary for the fulfillment of its tasks within the meaning of the Convention (Art. 59 Para. 3 Rules of Procedure). Oral negotiations are in principle public unless the Chamber decides to exclude the public ( Art. 40 ECHR, Art. 63 Para. 1 Rules of Procedure). They will be held in English or French, the official languages ​​of the Court of Justice. According to Art. 64, Paragraph 1 of the Rules of Procedure, it is the responsibility of the President of the Chamber to manage them.

Oral proceedings can also be held before the admissibility decision. In the context of this, the parties should also comment on the merits (Art. 54 Paragraph 3 Rules of Procedure).

Great Chamber

Under certain conditions, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR can be referred to an individual complaint procedure. On the one hand, Art. 30 gives the Chamber the opportunity to submit the matter to the Grand Chamber before it reaches a judgment. This requires that either the case raises a serious question of interpretation of the Convention or the Protocols, or that the resolution of an issue before it may lead to a departure from an earlier judgment of the Court of Justice. In both cases, neither party may object.

On the other hand, pursuant to Art. 43 (1) HRC , the parties can apply for referral to the Grand Chamber within three months of the Chamber's judgment. A committee of five decides on the application. It allows it if the case raises a serious question of the interpretation or application of the ECHR or the associated protocols or a serious question of general importance (Art. 43 (2)). The Grand Chamber then decides by judgment (Art. 43 Para. 3).

Pilot process

Since 2004, the Court of Justice has developed a decision variant in the context of the individual complaint, which was expressly codified in the procedural rules (Rule 61) in 2011. This creates the opportunity, based on an individual complaint, to address systematic or structural dysfunctions in the state in question, which have led or could lead to a large number of similar complaints. Most recently, this procedure was used in a case in which the Italian state was obliged to take measures within one year to eliminate the overcrowding of its prisons that was contrary to human rights. Such a decision has already been made against Germany: Rumpf ./. Germany, judgment of September 2, 2010, No. 46344/06 (excessively long proceedings).

Provisional measures

The Court of Justice can, under Article 39 of its Rules of Procedure, decide that a state should take certain interim measures while the Court of Justice continues to examine the case. These are urgent measures that are only used when there is an imminent risk of irreparable damage. On this basis, the ECHR can call on a state to refrain from deportation if this would result in a serious violation of the Convention, for example the prohibition of torture in Art. 3 ECHR.

Withdraw promising submissions

There are cases in which Germany paid promising complainants money to withdraw their filings. Other submissions that were in themselves promising had to be withdrawn because the complainant had used the wrong form that had also been made available to him by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

State complaint

Article 33 of the ECHR grants a convention state the right to refer to the Court of Justice on the allegation that another convention state is violating the rights guaranteed in the convention or its protocols. The exact requirements for the complaint result from Art. 46 Rules of Procedure. The procedure differs in several points from that of the individual complaint. The member state against which the complaint is directed must be informed immediately after it has been raised (Art. 51 Para. 1 Rules of Procedure). There is neither the competence of a single judge nor a committee, but only the chamber deals with the complaint (Art. 33 MRK). An oral hearing must already take place when one of the parties requests it (Art. 51 para. 5 and 58 para. 2 Rules of Procedure).

The state complaint only plays a subordinate role in the legal reality of the ECHR. It has only been submitted in a few cases of fundamental importance and enormous political implications and in the case of large-scale human rights violations. Examples of this are judgments relating to the Northern Ireland conflict and the Cyprus conflict . The Court is currently dealing with two complaints from Georgia against Russia - both pending in the Grand Chamber.

Expert opinion procedure

The expert opinion procedure according to Art. 47 is of even less practical importance . According to this, the ECHR can, at the request of the Committee of Ministers, give opinions on legal questions which concern the interpretation of the ECHR. However, Art. 47 para. 2 significantly restricts the scope of the provision: All questions relating to the content or extent of the Convention's rights in the first section or in the minutes or which the Court of Justice or the Committee of Ministers on the basis of one of the following are excluded the procedure initiated under the Convention could have to decide. The ECHR has therefore only issued two opinions so far: the first on the question of whether the Parliamentary Assembly may reject a list for the election of judges that does not nominate female candidates, the second on whether it is inadmissible, according to a list of candidates submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly To withdraw expiry of the set deadline. On the other hand, he refused to prepare an expert opinion on the question of whether the Human Rights Commission of the CIS states is an “other international investigative or comparative body” within the meaning of Article 35, Paragraph 2b, as he was dealing with this question in connection with an individual - or may have to decide on a state complaint and therefore fall under the grounds for exclusion of Art. 47 Paragraph 2.

Binding effect of the judgments of the ECHR

Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights reads: "The High Contracting Parties undertake to comply with the final judgment of the Court of Justice in all cases in which they are a party."

All signatory states have accordingly submitted to the case law of the ECHR. However, in the absence of executive powers, the Court of Justice can only impose restitutions in the form of compensation payments against the acting state ( Art. 41 ). Although the decisions of the Court of Justice are binding at international law level, their binding effect varies within the legal systems of the individual convention states, as the position of the human rights convention differs from state to state (see dualistic system ).

Procedural statistics

Pending proceedings

The ECHR is a victim of its own success. At the beginning of 2010, 100,000 proceedings were pending, i.e. H. initiated but not yet decided. While only 400 complaints were received annually in 1981, this number increased a hundredfold in 2007 to around 40,000 complaints annually. The duration of the proceedings is correspondingly long. In 2007, more than 2,000 proceedings had been held with the ECHR for more than five years. Of course, not all proceedings also lead to a judgment by the Court of Justice. The majority of the complaints are inadmissible. So are the year 2007 1500 decisions ( Judgments ) 27,100 complaints against declared inadmissible or struck off the register of proceedings.

Overview of the pending proceedings in 2007 in relation to convictions and population size (selection)
Country Pending proceedings (rounded) Convictions Size (population)
RussiaRussia Russia 20,300 (26%) 175 142 million
TurkeyTurkey Turkey 9150 (12%) 319 70.6 million
RomaniaRomania Romania 8300 (10%) 88 21.6 million
UkraineUkraine Ukraine 5800 (7%) 108 46.3 million
PolandPoland Poland 3100 (4%) 101 38.5 million
Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 3000 (4%) 9 10.3 million
ItalyItaly Italy 2900 (4%) 58 59.1 million
SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia 2700 (3%) 14th 2.0 million
GermanyGermany Germany 2500 (3%) 7th 82.4 million
FranceFrance France 2350 (3%) 39 64.5 million
AustriaAustria Austria 570 (0.7%) 20th 8.3 million
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 460 (0.6%) 6th 7.5 million
rest 18,270 (22.7%) 405 -

Conviction statistics

The increase in the number of cases at the ECHR is due not only to the reform of the Court of Justice and the resulting easier access, but also to the new admission of Eastern and Southeastern European countries in the 1990s. The convictions of the respective states clearly show that the main problems lie primarily in the area of ​​the judiciary. Violations of the principles of expedited trial, fair trial, the right to an effective legal remedy, but also freedom and security (deprivation of liberty) account for the overwhelming number of convictions. In terms of procedural delays, Italy clearly stands out from other countries. There are also special problems in Turkey, which is usually very high up in the following table of articles not named in the following table. Most of the convictions thus affect mainly Eastern and Southern European countries, which is also reflected in the development of the number of cases in 2007. Countries with a constitutional jurisdiction that provides effective protection of fundamental rights, such as Germany, have only a low number of convictions despite a relatively high rate of pending proceedings. In 2017, Russia topped the ranking of convictions.

Overview of convictions from 1959 to 2011 (selected focus areas)
# Country Total convictions (at least one offense) Prohibition of inhuman / degrading treatment (Art. 3) Freedom and Security (Art. 5) Fair trial Art. 6) Fast process (Art. 6) Private / family life (Art. 8) Freedom of expression (Art. 10) Effective legal remedy (Art. 13) Protection of property (ZP 1 Art. 1)
1 TurkeyTurkey Turkey 2,747 243 554 729 493 83 207 237 611
2 ItalyItaly Italy 2,166 16 29 245 1,155 133 4th 76 310
3 RussiaRussia Russia (since 1997) 1,212 357 422 570 154 94 23 291 456
4th PolandPoland Poland (since 1992) 945 19th 267 92 412 91 17th 20th 21st
5 RomaniaRomania Romania (since 1996) 859 68 64 343 88 45 15th 17th 441
6th FranceFrance France 848 19th 47 251 281 29 25th 32 29
7th UkraineUkraine Ukraine (since 1996) 822 70 134 432 259 25th 9 145 301
8th GreeceGreece Greece 686 28 32 120 403 8th 9 132 66
9 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 462 15th 60 90 26th 64 11 32 2
10 BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria (since 1992) 437 41 229 49 162 35 7th 125 60
11 AustriaAustria Austria 299 4th 10 83 86 14th 32 11 4th
16 GermanyGermany Germany 234 3 23 16 102 18th 4th 23 2
23 SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 113 - 13th 24 6th 16 11 1 -
- Total over all members 14,854 * 1.007 2,205 3,672 4,810 853 479 1,559 2,569

* Cases with multiple violations were only counted once.
In 2009 there were 61,300 new complaints and 1,499 convictions.

Major decisions

See: List of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights


In addition to the criticism of individual decisions, a structural criticism of the ECHR can be observed. The court is accused of micromanaging the societies in the member states, especially in socially and politically controversial issues (such as euthanasia, surrogacy, genetic engineering, abortion or prenatal diagnostics), whereby the cultural peculiarities in the individual societies are overlooked.

The reason for this excessive activity is seen as the ECHR's claim to further develop the content of the ECHR “dynamically” with binding effect for national legislators. According to the traditional view, the legislature ensures that the dynamization of the law is not at the expense of the legislature. Since the ECHR, unlike the national supreme court, is not counterbalanced by a legislator, this corrective is missing. The situation can be compared with that of a constitutional court when interpreting a catalog of fundamental rights in a constitutional document, since here too, "corrective" acts of the legislature usually require the form of a constitution-amending law. However, the hurdles for constitution-amending laws are usually lower than those for changing the ECHR.

In the wake of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union ( Brexit ), British politicians repeatedly criticized the European Court of Human Rights, which, in their opinion, has misinterpreted the European Convention on Human Rights. Interior Minister Priti Patel and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab spoke of an “abuse” of the convention by the Strasbourg judges . In order to escape the “misinterpretations” of the human rights convention by the European Court of Human Rights, it might even be necessary to withdraw from the convention as a whole, argued Crown Attorney Martin Howe in the context of the Brexit negotiations at the beginning of 2020.

Architecture of the courthouse

The ECHR building was designed by the British architect Richard Rogers and completed in 1995 after three years of construction. It cost 455 million francs (around 69.4 million euros).

Seen from the air, the building is in the shape of a scale, with the round meeting rooms representing the scales. This structure is also continued in the steel structure in the building. Here the conference rooms “float” like two scales above the floor. At the same time, the building is reminiscent of a ship due to its location on the river and the high superstructures between the two halls. By using a steel construction and large glass surfaces, the architect believed that it should express a particular openness and thus stand out from the typical monumental impression of old courthouses. This concern is also expressed in other details of the structure. Rogers had provided free-standing tables in the large entrance area between the negotiating rooms, at which the complainants could submit their complaints in person. Today there are cabins made of glass for this purpose.

The earlier structure of the Court of Justice, with the division of tasks between the Commission and the Court, is also reflected in the structure of the building. It has two separate, parallel wings (altogether around 420 offices), a consultation room for the court and two hearing rooms. The smaller room (520 m²), formerly the Commission room, is now used by the Court of Justice for negotiations. It has 41 seats for visitors and 30 seats for parties. The large hall (860 m²), on the other hand, has space for 260 visitors and 33 places for parties. 49 judges' seats are arranged in a long oval. Both halls have appropriate communication technology and separate interpreting booths.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: European Court of Human Rights  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : European Court of Human Rights  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Documents and general information

Pictures and films

Individual evidence

  1. List of signatory states (English).
  2. Lawless ./. Ireland , judgment of 14 November 1960, no. 332/57; German translation in ECHR-E 1, 10 ( Memento from January 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 93 kB).
  3. Ludwig Minelli : See nothing? Hear nothing? Say nothing? Europe's governments and the three monkeys (PDF) Swiss quarterly magazine. Society for the European Convention on Human Rights (SGEMKO), June 2014
  4. Protocol No. 11 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on the restructuring of the control mechanism introduced by the Convention (official translation from Germany)
  5. Protocol No. 14 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, amending the control system of the Strasbourg Convention (adjusted translation agreed between Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland)
  6. Information on the 14th additional protocol to the ECHR at
  7. Meyer-Ladewig, ECHR, Art. 21 Rn. 1.
  8. ^ Opinion of the ECHR of February 12, 2008 , Rn. 47; German translation in NJW 2009, 2109.
  9. Meyer-Ladewig, ECHR, Art. 22 Rn. 2.
  10. a b Report of the ECHR from January 22, 2010
  11. Meyer-Ladewig, ECHR, Art. 22 Rn. 6.
  12. ^ The Statute of the Council of Europe. In: Collection of the European Treaties. Published by: Council of Europe, accessed March 28, 2019 .
  13. In this context, the Fourth and Sixth Protocols to the General Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe should be mentioned in particular. See Meyer-Ladewig, ECHR, Art. 51.
  14. Christina Binder / Lando Kirchmair: The legitimacy of international electoral standards: Deficits in international law and a political science perspective . In: Archives of International Law . tape 55 , no. 4 . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2017, p. 387, 391-393, 397 , doi : 10.1628 / 000389217X15120446388468 .
  15. See Michael Kleine-Cosack : Constitutional Complaints and Human Rights Complaints . 2014. ISBN 978-3-8114-3659-6
  16. LR-No. 0.101.4 Rules of Procedure of the ECHR Liechtenstein Laws LiLex
  17. forms in all languages ; German language form ( Memento from October 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 621 kB)
  18. Meyer-Ladewig, ECHR, Art. 35, Rn. 5.
  19. Freimanis and Līdums ./. Latvia , judgment of 9 February 2006, nos. 73443/01 and 74860/01.
  20. Dominik Haider: The Pilot-Judgment Procedure of the European Court of Human Rights , Leiden 2013
  21. Torreggiani and Others v. Italy
  22. trunk ./. Germany , judgment of September 2, 2010, no. 46344/06; German translation by the Federal Government.
  23. Press Unit of the ECHR: Information sheet on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), preliminary measures. (PDF) Retrieved October 13, 2020 .
  24., project of the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany e. V.
  25. Do not use the form offered by the BMJV on the Internet for ECHR complaints! by Bernd von Heintschel-Heinegg , published on July 19, 2016 on Beck-Blog
  26. Meyer-Ladewig, ECHR, Art. 33 Rn. 2.
  27. Ireland ./. United Kingdom , judgment of 18 January 1978, no. 5310/71; German translation in ECHR-E 1, 232 ( Memento from February 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 197 kB).
  28. Cyprus ./. Turkey , judgment of 10 May 2001, no. 25781/94.
  29. Georgia ./. Russia (I), No. 13255/07 (decision on admissibility ; press release (PDF) on the hearing before the Grand Chamber) and Georgia ./. Russia (II), No. 38263/08 (decision on admissibility ).
  30. ^ Opinion of the ECHR of February 12, 2008 ; German translation in NJW 2009, 2109.
  31. Decision of the ECHR of June 2, 2004 ; German translation in NJW 2005, 123.
  32. Survey of Activities 2007, pp. 53, 58 f. ( Memento of May 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 863 kB).
  33. Council of Europe threatens serious financial crisis - Russia is to blame for it , 27 February 2018
  34. ^ Registry of the European Court of Human Rights (Ed.): Annual Report 2011 . Strasbourg 2011 (English, [PDF; 1.3 MB ]).
  35. Unbroken flood of lawsuits in Strasbourg , NZZ of January 27, 2011.
  36. Angelika Nussberger : Too Much Europe? European courts under fire . Ed .: Federal Agency for Civic Education . September 8, 2017 ( [accessed February 13, 2019]).
  37. Martin Schubarth: The European Convention on Human Rights has got lost | NZZ . November 2, 2017, ISSN  0376-6829 ( [accessed February 13, 2019]).
  38. Edward Malnick: "Senior Tories urge Boris Johnson to curb the use of human rights laws in the UK courts" The Telegraph on March 7, 2020
  39. Multibeton: Palace of Human Rights in Strasbourg ( Memento of February 13, 2017 in the Internet Archive )

Coordinates: 48 ° 35 ′ 50.3 "  N , 7 ° 46 ′ 28.6"  E