The European Court of Human Rights is an international court that adjudicates cases related to the European Convention on Human Rights. The court is based in Strasbourg, France and was established in 1959. It is composed of judges from each member state of the Council of Europe and is overseen by a President and Vice-President elected by the judges.
The European Convention on Human Rights, which serves as the basis for the court’s work, was signed in 1950 and has been ratified by all 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The Convention sets out a number of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to life, the right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. Individuals who believe that their rights have been violated under the Convention can bring a case before the court.
The court’s jurisdiction extends to all member states of the Council of Europe, and it has the power to hear cases brought by individuals, groups of individuals, or states. The court is an important forum for the protection of human rights in Europe, and its decisions have had significant impact on the development of human rights law in Europe and beyond.
The court’s work is divided into two main areas: the processing of individual applications and the delivery of advisory opinions. In the case of individual applications, individuals can bring a case before the court if they believe that their rights under the Convention have been violated by a state. The court examines the case and determines whether the state in question has breached its obligations under the Convention. If the court finds a violation, it can order the state to take remedial action, such as paying compensation or changing its laws or practices.
In addition to individual applications, the court can also deliver advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by member states or the Council of Europe. These opinions provide guidance on the interpretation and application of the Convention and its protocols.
The court’s decisions are binding on the states involved in a particular case, and states are required to comply with the court’s orders. However, the court does not have the power to enforce its decisions directly. If a state fails to comply with a court order, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe can take action, such as initiating infringement proceedings against the state in question.
Over the years, the court has heard a wide range of cases relating to human rights, including cases involving freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial. The court has also issued a number of landmark decisions, such as Soering v United Kingdom, which established that it would be a violation of the Convention to extradite a person to a country where they would face the death penalty, and Demir and Baykara v Turkey, which held that the prohibition of discrimination in the Convention applies to trade unions.
The court has also been involved in a number of high-profile cases involving controversial issues, such as assisted suicide and same-sex marriage. In the case of Pretty v United Kingdom, the court held that the UK’s ban on assisted suicide did not violate the Convention, while in the case of Schalk and Kopf v Austria, the court held that the refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violated the Convention’s prohibition of discrimination.
In recent years, the court has faced criticism from some quarters over its perceived activism and alleged interference in the domestic affairs of member states. Some critics have argued that the court has overstepped its mandate and has become too involved in political and social issues. Others, however, have praised the court for its role in promoting and protecting human rights in Europe.
Despite the challenges it faces, the European Court of Human Rights remains a vital institution in the protection of human rights in Europe. Its work is essential in ensuring that the rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on