How to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

IMPORTANT

Before deciding if you can apply to the European Court of Human Rights you should carefully read the Convention and the Notes for the Guidance of Applicants.

If your case complies with the conditions mentioned in these texts, you should detach and complete the Application Form (central pages) according to the instructions included in the Notes.

Please note that the Authority Form is only to be sent back if you already have a lawyer.

N O T E S

for the guidance of persons wishing to apply to the

European Court of Human Rights

                         

What cases can the Court deal with?

1. The European Court of Human Rights is an international court which can examine complaints from persons claiming that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been infringed. This Convention is an international treaty by which a large number of European States have agreed to secure certain fundamental rights. The rights guaranteed are set out in the Convention itself, and also in Protocols Nos. 1, 4, 6, 7, 12 and 13 which only some of the States have accepted. You should read these texts, which are all enclosed.

2. If you consider that you have personally and directly been the victim of a breach of one or more of these fundamental rights by one or more of the States, you may complain to the Court.

3. The Court can only deal with complaints relating to infringements of one or more of the rights set out in the Convention and Protocols. It is not a court of appeal vis-à-vis national courts and cannot annul or alter their decisions. Nor can it intervene directly on your behalf with the authority you are complaining about.

4. The Court can only examine complaints that are directed against States which have ratified the Convention or the Protocol in question. It cannot examine complaints concerning events occurring before ratification. The dates of ratification are set out in the present document.

5. You can only complain to the Court about matters which are the responsibility of a public authority (legislature, administrative authority, court of law, etc.) of one of these States. The Court cannot deal with complaints against private individuals or private organisations.

6. Under the terms of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention, the Court can only deal with an application after all domestic remedies have been exhausted and within a period of six months from the date on which the final domestic decision was taken. The Court will not be able to consider any application that does not satisfy these admissibility requirements.

7. Exhaustion of domestic remedies means that before applying to the Court you must first have tried to obtain a decision on the subject matter of your complaint from the national courts, including appealing to the highest court which has jurisdiction. If you have not used such a remedy, you will have to show that it was ineffective.

8. When applying to the national courts, you must normally comply with national rules of procedure, including time-limits. If, for instance, your appeal is dismissed because you have brought it too late or in the wrong court or have not used the proper procedure, the Court will not be able to examine your case.

9. However, if you are complaining of a court decision such as a conviction or sentence, it is not necessary to have tried to have your case reopened after going through the normal appeal procedures in the courts. Nor do you have to have made use of remedies outside the courts or seek a pardon or an amnesty. Petitions (to Parliament, the Head of State or Government, a minister or an ombudsman) are not regarded as effective remedies that you must have used.

10. After a decision of the highest competent national court or authority has been given, you have six months within which you may apply to the Court. The six-month period begins when the final court decision in the ordinary appeal process is served on you or your lawyer, not on the date of any later refusal of an application to reopen your case or of a petition for pardon or amnesty or of any other application to a public authority.

11. This six-month period will be interrupted when you send to the Court either a first letter clearly setting out – even if only in summary form – the subject-matter of the application you may wish to lodge or a completed application form. A mere request for information is not sufficient to stop time running for the purposes of complying with the six-month time-limit.

12. Purely for information purposes, you should be aware that more than 90% of the applications examined by the Court are declared inadmissible for failure to comply with the formal conditions for an application.

                         

How to apply to the Court

13. The Court’s official languages are English and French but if it is easier for you, you may alternatively write to the Registry in an official language of one of the States that have ratified the Convention. During the initial stage of the proceedings you may also receive correspondence from the Court in that language. Please note, however, that at a later stage of the proceedings, namely if the Court decides to ask the Government to submit written comments on your complaints, all correspondence from the Court will be sent to you in English or French and you or your representative will in principle also be required to use English or French in your subsequent submissions.

14. Applications to the Court may be made only by post (not by telephone). If you send your application by e-mail or fax, you must confirm it by post. No purpose will be served by your coming to Strasbourg in person to state your case orally.

15. All correspondence relating to your complaint should be sent to the following address:

The Registrar

European Court of Human Rights

Council of Europe

F–67075 STRASBOURG CEDEX.

Please do not staple, seal with adhesive tape, or otherwise bind any correspondence or documents you send to the Court. All pages should be numbered consecutively.

16. On receipt of your first letter or the application form, the Registry of the Court will reply, telling you that a file (whose number must be mentioned in all subsequent correspondence) has been opened

in your name and sending you a set of barcodes which you should attach to any future correspondence. Subsequently, you may be asked for further information, documents or particulars of your complaints. The Registry cannot however provide you with information about the law of the State against which you are making your complaint or give legal advice concerning the application and interpretation of national law.

17. It is in your interest to reply rapidly to any correspondence from the Registry. Any delay or failure to reply may be taken to mean that you no longer wish to pursue the examination of your case.

18. If you consider that your complaints concern one of the rights guaranteed by the Convention or one of the Protocols, and that the conditions described above are satisfied, you should fill in the application form carefully and legibly and send it, together with any documents required for its examination, as soon as possible and not later than eight weeks after the date of the first letter from the Registry. If the application form is not sent within those eight weeks, it will be the date on which you send your completed application form which determines whether you have complied with the six-month time-limit set out in Article 35 § 1 (see paragraphs 6 and 10 above) and not the date of your first letter. Moreover, if the application form has not been returned six months from the date when it was sent to you, this will be taken to mean that you no longer wish to pursue the examination of your case, and the file will be destroyed. In addition, failure to provide further information or documents at the Registry's request may result in the application not being examined by the Court or being declared inadmissible or struck out of the Court's list of cases.

19. When you fill in an application form, you should make sure that you:

(a) set out the relevant information about the parties (Section I of the form), with a separate sheet for each applicant, if necessary, and a form (or forms) of authority if a representative is appointed;

(b) give clear and concise details of the facts you are complaining about (Section II). Give exact dates and try to describe the events in the order in which they occurred. If your complaints relate to a number of different matters (for example different sets of court proceedings), deal with each matter separately;

(c) explain as precisely as you can what your complaint under the Convention is (Section III). Say which Convention provisions you rely on and explain why the facts that you have set out in Section II involve a violation of those provisions;

(d) give the information needed to show that you have complied with the time-limits and the rules on exhaustion of remedies (Section IV). You should give the information separately for each complaint;

(e) state briefly what you want to achieve through your application to the Court (Section V);

(f) indicate whether you have submitted the complaints in your application to any other procedure of international investigation or settlement (Section VI). If you have, you should give details, including the name of the body to which you submitted your complaints, dates and details of any proceedings which took place and details of decisions taken. You should also submit copies of relevant decisions and other documents;

A U T H O R I T Y1

(Rule 36 of the Rules of Court)

I, ......................................................................................................................................

.........................................................................................................................................

(name and address of applicant)

hereby authorise ...................................................................................................................

.........................................................................................................................................

.........................................................................................................................................

(name, address and occupation of representative)

to represent me in the proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights, and in any subsequent proceedings under the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning my application introduced under Article 34 of the Convention against

.........................................................................................................................................

(respondent State)

on .....................................................................................................................................

(date of letter of introduction)

.........................................................................................................................................

(place and date)

.........................................................................................................................................

(signature of applicant)

I hereby accept the above appointment

.........................................................................................................................................

(signature of representative)

1 This form mustbe completed and signed by any applicant wishing to be represented before the Court and by the lawyer or other person appointed.