What is the European Court of Human Rights?
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is an international court established in 1959. The Court is based in Strasbourg (France). It interprets and applies the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is an international treaty only members States of the Council of Europe may sign. The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organization.
Greece is one of the 47 Council of Europe Member States and has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and most of its Protocols.
When can one apply to the European Court of Human Rights?
Independently of age and nationality, one may lodge an application with the European Court, if she or he considers that he or she has personally and directly been the victim of a violation of the rights set out in the European Convention and/or its Protocols. The alleged violation must have been committed by one of the States bound by the Convention and its Protocols.
Two fundamental requirements must be satisfied to lodge an application with the Court: 1) all the remedies in the State concerned that could provide redress for the alleged violation must have been used and 2) the application must be lodged within six months from the date of the final decision at domestic level.
The application is lodged in one of the Court’s official languages (English and French) or in one of the official languages of the States bound by the Convention. However, at a later stage, the proceedings take place in one of the Court’s official languages (English and French). Proceedings are conducted in writing. Public hearings are exceptional.
What can one hope to obtain?
The Court is not empowered to overrule national decisions or annul national laws.
If the Court finds that there has been a violation, it may award the applicant “just satisfaction”, a sum of money in compensation for certain forms of damage, which the Member State must pay.
A judgment condemning a Member State for infringing the Convention apply pressure on it: the Member State is forced to change its legislation and the national tribunals their case law in order to comply with the Court’s rulings and give an end to the Convention’s violation that could lead to further rulings condemning the State and forcing it to pay future applicants “just satisfaction”.
The study of each case file will determine whether it could be possible to lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights.
Indicatively, the European Court has ruled on cases relating to the length of judicial proceedings, the right of access to a court, the right to freedom of religion, the freedom of the press, the right to respect for one’s private life, personal data protection, the right to education, medically assisted reproductive technologies, medical errors, the detention or expulsion of non-nationals, police violence, the length and lawfulness of pre-trial detention, detention conditions, visiting rights and child custody after divorce/separation, child adoption, paternity issues, international child abduction, modern forms of slavery or forced labor, domestic violence.