The request for fair justice is not always possible to satisfy in one’s own country by applying to the bodies of the national judicial system. The decision of the highest court of a particular state does not always put an end to the case. Today, there are a number of international judicial institutions operating in the world where individuals and organizations can apply under certain conditions.
The most authoritative institution of this kind is the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or ECHR). The activities of the court are based on the norms of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, adopted in 1950. Every year, thousands of complaints (applications) are sent to the ECHR from citizens of 47 states that are members of the Council of Europe and have ratified the Convention. However, only 4-5% of cases are adjudicated as complainants are often unable to comply with the stringent paperwork and complaint procedures.
On the other hand, the decisions made in favor of the complainants become precedents for national law enforcement practices, provide an opportunity to restore justice and receive monetary compensation to those persons who could not protect their legal rights within their country.
If you are faced with the need to apply to this prestigious institution and want to minimize the risks of incorrect documentation, the lawyer of the ECtHR of the Lawrange Attorneys Association is at your service. Competence, excellent knowledge of the language of office work and the terminology of the European Court, as well as constant practice, make it possible to create all the necessary prerequisites for achieving the goal set by the principal.
Current statistics of the ECtHR
Note! From the moment it began functioning until 2021 inclusive, the European Court issued 24,511 decisions. The ruling was first issued in 1961 in the case of Lawless v. Ireland. Some violations of the Convention were established in 20,785 cases.
During the twelve months of 2021, the ECtHR managed to consider 36,092 appeals and issued 1,105 rulings. The judges determined 32,961 complaints as inadmissible and excluded them from the list. A total of 3131 appeals received proceedings – most decisions were made on grouped applications.
The majority, 219 decisions, was made by the court with regard to the Russian Federation. The main offense stated in 306 resolutions is non-observance of the rights to freedom and immunity. In addition, in 2021, the decisions concerned inhuman treatment, the right to a fair trial, and respect for private life. 70,150 complaints are pending in February 2022.
In total, in 2021, the European Court received 44,250 new applications. Turkey continues to hold the first place in terms of the number of applications submitted to the court, as before – Turkish citizens filed 9548 complaints last year. In second place is Russia, in third is Ukraine, in fourth is Romania and in fifth is Poland.
Key principles of the activity of the ECtHR
The location of the European Court of Human Rights is the city of Strasbourg (France), the Palace of Human Rights. Often this interethnic institution is called the Strasbourg Court.
Note! The competence of the ECHR covers 47 states with a population of about 800 million people. One judge is sent from each state, so there are 47 judges in total. At the same time, judges are independent in their actions and decisions; they do not act as representatives of their states. The activities of judges are provided by the Secretariat, that includes highly qualified lawyers from different countries.
An application to the Strasbourg Court can be submitted by any individual (private) or legal entity – a citizen / resident of any of the 47 states. Applicants can be both commercial organizations and any other non-state structures. The state is always responsible.
Important! Before applying to the ECHR, the applicant must exhaust all domestic legal protection mechanisms, that is, go through all the stages of the justice system (for example, the local court – the appellate instance – the cassation instance).
Compliance with this condition, as well as the need to meet the deadlines for filing a complaint and comply with a number of other requirements, are the factors on which the chances of the Strasbourg court issuing a decision in the case depend. It is extremely difficult to independently assess the chances of success in the most authoritative court in Europe. This task can only be performed by an experienced lawyer in the ECtHR. It is advisable to get advice from such a specialist before filing a complaint, in order to avoid unnecessary waste of time and effort.
Important! The ECtHR has no right to reverse or change the decision of the national court. But the decision of the Strasbourg court opens up the following possibilities:
- review of the case at the level of national justice in connection with newly discovered circumstances;
- receive financial compensation from the respondent state, including covering all legal costs;
- recognition by the state of the rights of the applicant, that were the subject of the appeal.
Judgments of the ECtHR are implemented without fail (Article 46 of the Convention). The oversight function is entrusted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The mechanism for implementing the decisions of this institution is based on the voluntary acceptance of the norms of the Convention by countries.
The cost of hiring a lawyer in the ECtHR from Lawrange
A small number of lawyers specialize in supporting the filing of complaints with the European Court. If you want to win your case, then you need the best lawyer among them – the European Court of Human Rights is not an institution where you can get lucky by chance. Even with a good chance of winning, there is still a lot of work to be done over several years. Significant costs will inevitably be associated with the services of a lawyer. But if you move in the right direction, then these costs will be compensated with a vengeance.
Important! The cost of Lawrange`s services is correlated with the high level of competence in the field of supporting cases in the Strasbourg Court. Our assistance in each case is assessed individually based on the following factors:
- the need for comprehensive support or the solution of a separate task – preparation of a complaint, memorandum (written response) with answers to questions posed by the court, etc.;
- the number of violations of rights under the Convention that need to be substantiated in the appeal;
- the number of documents provided by the applicant for analysis – on the basis of these documents, the actual circumstances of the case are stated.
The cost of a preliminary assessment of the prospects for applying to the ECtHR in a specific case is from 500 EUR.
The cost of preparing a complaint to the ECtHR is from 1500 EUR.
The cost of preparing a memorandum (a written response in response to a request from the ECtHR in the course of communication) is from 500 EUR.
Appealing the decisions of national courts to the ECtHR
Important! The fundamental criterion for deciding a case in the Strasbourg Court is that the applicant has previously passed through all the stages of the national judicial system. For example, in Ukraine it is filing a lawsuit with a local court of general jurisdiction, an administrative or other court of first instance, then filing a complaint with an appeal court, and finally, a cassation complaint with the Supreme Court. For Ukraine, the final decision at the domestic level is the decision of the Supreme Court.
When the complainant has not exhausted all the possibilities of legal protection within the framework of national justice, the application to the European Court will not meet the admissibility criteria. Specifically, this criterion is formulated as follows: exhaustion of domestic remedies.
Despite the unambiguity and obviousness, this requirement is quite often not taken into account or is not correctly interpreted by the applicants, that becomes one of the most common reasons for denial of the ECtHR decision on the case. In particular, the exhaustion of domestic remedies is often understood by applicants as the need to complete the proceedings.
Attention! In order to avoid misinterpretations of the requirements, a lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights is required for a preliminary consultation. This is too serious a legal matter to rely on your judgment.
Reasons for refusal by the ECtHR
Note! The predominant percentage of refusals from the ECtHR is associated with non-compliance with the eligibility criteria mentioned above (it formulated in Article 35 of the Convention). When a complaint is declared inadmissible, the issues raised in it are not considered on the merits. In addition to violating the requirement to exhaust domestic remedies, this includes the inadmissibility of:
- consideration of the case in another international judicial body along with the ECtHR;
- abuse of the right to appeal;
- anonymous statement;
- expiration of the statute of limitations (four months from the date of the decision in the highest instance of the national judiciary);
- lodging a complaint against a country that has not ratified the Convention;
- consideration of the fact of an offense in regions that are not under the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe;
- non-compliance of the application with the Convention (the appeal does not fall within the scope of the activity of this judicial institution).
Like the court of national jurisdiction, the Strasbourg Court cannot be reapplied on a matter that has already been decided.
Note! The following actions are considered as abuse of the right to appeal:
- insulting officials, the state, individual citizens, organizations;
- not providing the necessary information, providing false information;
- termination of communication with the Secretariat, failure to provide answers to relevant requests;
- pursuit of goals such as gaining popularity or propaganda.
Important! If you plan to apply to the ECHR, the lawyer will immediately tell you about the inadmissibility of such an appeal in an anonymous form. The hearing of cases in the Strasbourg Court is public. The identity of the complainant is reflected in all documentation from the moment of omission of the application and before the issuance of a decision on the case. Only as an exception, in some cases, it is possible to justify the existence of good reasons for not disclosing information about the person or about the very fact of filing a complaint with the ECtHR. However, such justifications require a lot of additional work on the part of the lawyer.
The second large group of reasons for refusals at the ECtHR are errors in the complaint form. This is a fairly complex document from a legal point of view. To correctly fill out the form, there is not enough knowledge and skills that are used in the preparation of statements of claim, appeals and cassation complaints, as well as other procedural documents within the framework of national justice.
Note! If a person fills out the form for the first time on his own, then mistakes will be made with a probability of 99%. Therefore, an experienced assistant is needed already at this stage, and even more so with further communication with the Strasbourg Court.
Representation at the ECtHR
According to Rule 36 of the ECtHR Rules, only a lawyer has the right to represent the interests of the applicant in this judicial institution. Representation of one’s own interests in the ECtHR is allowed only as an exception in extremely rare cases (special permission should be obtained for this).
The representative in the Strasbourg Court is a highly qualified lawyer with special specialization. Among the competencies required for such a specialist:
- a high level of proficiency in the official languages of the ECtHR – English and/or French (court sessions are held in these languages);
- knowledge of the terminology of the legal proceedings of this institution for filing a complaint, conducting correspondence with representatives of the court and effectively protecting the interests of the principal during oral hearings;
- the right to practice law in one or more countries that have ratified the Convention.
Submission of applications to the ECtHR
An application to the Strasbourg Court is accepted from an individual or legal entity, a group of persons, a non-governmental organization. Representatives of state bodies are not entitled to apply to this institution.
Important! The appeal is carried out by filling out a form that can be downloaded from the website of this judicial institution. When filling out, the applicant must adhere to the requirements for the content and form of the document, that are contained in Rule 47-1 of the Rules of Court (Rules of Court).
Attention! From February 1, 2022, the complaint form, the power of attorney form for a representative and other standard forms of documents have been updated due to a change (reduction) in the deadline for filing a complaint with the ECtHR. The submission deadline has been shortened from six to four months. Changes were also made to instructions, digests and other supporting materials. When preparing an appeal, be sure to use the official website of the European Court.
Complete all fields on the form. The facts, circumstances and validity of the claims set forth in the complaint are supported by copies of documents. Since the applicant is represented by a lawyer, the European Court must obtain a power of attorney for this representative.
Important! Among the fundamental conditions for filling out the form:
- clear and concise presentation of the essence of the offense, significant facts, arguments;
- providing sufficient information to the point in the form so that the review can be done without recourse to additional documents;
- possibility to attach descriptions up to 20 pages to the form.
After being sent to the court, the complaint goes through the following path: 1) registration; 2) consideration for admissibility; 3) consideration on the merits. More than 95% of applications are screened out at the second stage.
Deadline for filing a complaint
Attention! According to Protocol 15 to the Convention, from February 1, 2022, the period for filing an application with the ECtHR after a final decision at the domestic level has been reduced from 6 to 4 months. The new statute of limitations applies to complaints for which a final decision at the domestic level has been made since February 1, 2022.
The procedure for the renewal (restoration) of the deadline for filing an application with the European Court is not provided. The date of dispatch is the date of the postmark on the envelope with the complaint. The terms for considering a complaint to the ECtHR are from 9 months to ten years, on average 3-5 years.
If you decide to file an application with the European Court, you should be patient – there is a long and complicated procedure ahead. At the same time, the representation of the interests of the principal in the ECtHR by an experienced lawyer makes it possible to simplify some points and not go into details.
Note! A lawyer at the ECtHR takes part in the procedure of communication with the court through a special eComms e-mail service. The court sends requests to the government structures of the respondent state with a request to provide explanations and comments on the subject of the dispute. The responses received are then forwarded to the applicant. The court allocates 12 weeks for the conclusion of a settlement agreement between the parties.
The preparation of the complaint and the procedure for consideration in the European Court includes these steps:
- Collection of documents and filling out the ECHR form – within four months from the date of the final decision at the domestic level.
- Registration of the application in court – from 8 to 10 weeks after the application is submitted. The complaint is assigned a number (about that a corresponding letter is sent to the applicant) and published on the official website of the ECtHR. Further, you can track the progress of the case by number through the search engine of the court.
- Making a decision on the admissibility or inadmissibility of the complaint – takes one to two years. If the appeal is recognized as unacceptable, then it is excluded from the list of cases under consideration. This case is considered completed.
- Communication via eComms – from six months or more.
- Making a decision on the merits (judgment of the ECtHR) – takes about six months.
Filing a complaint with an international judicial body is a very responsible step. Before formalizing and sending documents, it is necessary to carefully consider whether such a step has a chance of success at all.
If you plan to file a complaint with the ECHR, you should first get advice from a lawyer with the appropriate specialization. If there is a chance of success, the following points are significant: 1) the complaint to the ECtHR must meet the admissibility criteria and not contain errors in the design, presentation of facts and wording of requirements; 2) for effective communication with the court, an experienced lawyer with knowledge of the official languages and peculiarities of the ECtHR record keeping is required; 3) even if the complaint meets the admissibility criteria and other requirements, the proceedings in the Strasbourg Court take about three to five years.
Despite the complexity of the procedure for considering cases in the ECtHR, hundreds of applicants annually achieve the desired result. Experts of the Lawrange Lawyers Association are ready to become for you the factor that minimizes the risks of failure and opens up prospects for winning in a dispute with the defendant represented by the state.
How to file a complaint with the ECtHR?
It is necessary to download, then fill out and print a special form from the ECtHR website. After filling the form is signed by the applicant. Further, the documents are sent to the Strasbourg Court by mail.
How to file an application with the ECtHR?
You should use the help of a lawyer who specializes in supporting cases in the ECtHR to correctly file an application. Any misinterpretation or error may result in refusal to consider the appeal.
When can I apply to the ECtHR?
You can apply to the Strasbourg Court if there is a violation of the rights and freedoms in the opinion of the applicant, that are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Such treatment is allowed only when all domestic remedies have been exhausted.