European Court of Human Rights

The European Court is a judicial body, established by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Court is based in Strasbourg, France and is a full time permanent body.


The Court is composed of forty-five judges, one judge for each state party to the ECHR. Article 20 ECHR establishes that ‘The Court shall consist of a number of judges equal to that of the High Contracting Parties.’

  • ‘The judges shall be of high moral character and must either possess the qualifications required for appointment to high judicial office or be jurisconsults of recognised competence’ (Article 21(1) ECHR).
  • The judges shall sit on the Court in their individual capacity (Article 21(2) ECHR).
  • Ad hoc judges: Rule 29(1) Rules of Court. ‘1.(a) If the judge elected in respect of a Contracting Party concerned is unable to sit in the Chamber, withdraws, or is exempted, the President of the Chamber shall invite that Party to indicate whether it wishes to appoint to sit as judge either another elected judge or an ad hoc judge and, if so, to state at the same time the name of the person appointed.’

Who may file a complaint?

Article 34 ECHR: ‘The Court may receive applications from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties of the rights set forth in the Convention or the protocols thereto. The High Contracting Parties undertake not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of this right.’


Exhaustion of domestic remedies: Article 35 ECHR. ‘The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law [?].’

Time period: Article 35 ECHR. The Court may only deal with the matter if it is submitted to the Court within a period of six months after exhaustion of domestic remedies.

Duplication of procedures: Article 35 ECHR. The Court shall not deal with any application that ‘is substantially the same as a matter that has already been examined by the Court or has already been submitted to another procedure of international investigation or settlement and contains no relevant new information.’


Article 35 ECHR. The Court shall declare inadmissible any application submitted under Article 34 that is ‘anonymous’ or ‘which it considers incompatible with the provisions of the Convention or the protocols thereto, manifestly ill-founded, or an abuse of the right of application.’

Amicus curiae briefs

Article 36 ECHR: ‘1. In all cases before a Chamber or the Grand Chamber, a High Contracting Party one of whose nationals is an applicant shall have the right to submit written comments and to take part in hearings. 2. The President of the Court may, in the interest of the proper administration of justice, invite any High Contracting Party which is not a party to the proceedings or any person concerned who is not the applicant to submit written comments or take part in hearings.’

Friendly settlement

Article 38(1)(b) ECHR. If the Court declares an application admissible, it shall ‘place itself at the disposal of the parties concerned with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the protocols thereto.’


Article 41 ECHR: ‘If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.’

  • Binding force: Article 46(1) ECHR: ‘The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the final judgement of the Court in any case to which they are parties.’
  • Execution of judgements: Article 46(2) ECHR: ‘The final judgment of the Court shall be transmitted to the Committee of Ministers, which shall supervise its execution.’ Additionally, according to Articles 3 and 8 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers has the power of expulsion of recalcitrant states.

Advisory opinions

Article 47 ECHR: ‘1. The Court may, at the request of the Committee of Ministers, give advisory opinions on legal questions concerning the interpretation of the Convention and the protocols thereto. 2. Such opinions shall not deal with any question relating to the content or scope of the rights or freedoms defined in Section I of the Convention and the protocols thereto, or with any other question which the Court or the Committee of Ministers might have to consider in consequence of any such proceedings as could be instituted in accordance with the Convention. 3. Decisions of the Committee of Ministers to request an advisory opinion of the Court shall require a majority vote of the representatives entitled to sit on the Committee.’

Interim measures

Rule 39 Rules of Court: ‘1. The Chamber or, where appropriate, its President may, at the request of a party or of any other person concerned, or of its own motion, indicate to the parties any interim measure which it considers should be adopted in the interests of the parties or of the proper conduct of the proceedings before it. 2. Notice of these measures shall be given to the Committee of Ministers. 3. The Chamber may request information from the parties on any matter connected with the implementation of any interim measure it has indicated.’


Hearings, which are held in a minority of cases, are public. The official and working languages are set out in Rule 34 Rules of Court: ‘1. The official languages of the Court shall be English and French. 2. Before the decision on the admissibility of an application is taken, all communications with and pleadings by applicants under Article 34 of the Convention or their representatives, if not in one of the Court’s official languages, shall be in one of the official languages of the Contracting Parties. 3. (a) All communications with and pleadings by such applicants or their representatives in respect of a hearing, or after a case has been declared admissible, shall be in one of the Court’s official languages, unless the President of the Chamber authorises the continued use of the official language of a Contracting Party. [?]. 6. Any witness, expert or other person appearing before the Court may use his or her own language if he or she does not have sufficient knowledge of either of the two official languages. In that event the Registrar shall make the necessary arrangements for interpreting or translation.’

Address for submitting petitions/communications

Application Forms for the European Court of Human Rights may be downloaded from the following address:

European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
F - 67075 Strasbourg-Cedex

Tel: 33 (0)3 88 41 20 18
Fax: 33 (0)3 88 41 27 30



Icelandic Human Rights Centre

Túngata 14 | 101 Reykjavík | Sími 552 2720 | info[at]

The office is open from 9-12 and 13-16