Your application to the ECHR



2 Your application to the ECHR: How to apply and how your application is processed

3 The great majority of applications lodged with the Court are declared inadmissible, which means that the Court dismisses them without even examining the merits of the case because the application does not meet all the admissibility criteria. Decisions declaring applications inadmissible are final and cannot be challenged. So if you do not want the Court to reject your application, it is important that you satisfy all the admissibility criteria. Before lodging your application, please consult the Court’s internet site, particularly the Admissibility Guide, and fill in the checklist to make sure your application has a chance of getting past the admissibility stage. YOU WANT TO LODGE AN APPLICATION WITH THE COURT The application form is available on the Court’s Internet site. Download it and fill in every part of the form, without exception, and send it to the Court, together with copies of all the relevant documents – not the originals, as they will not be returned to you at the end of the proceedings. Do not contact the Court for a paper copy of the form; printing it yourself will save time and make sure your application reaches This document has been prepared by the Court’s Public Relations Unit. The document does not bind the Court. It is intended to provide basic general the Court in good time (consult the Practice Direction on the institution information about the way the Court works. of proceedings and the notice explaining how to fill in the application form, available on the Court’s Internet site). For more detailed information, reference is made to documents issued by the Registry (available on the Court’s website: and in If your application is incomplete there is a risk that the Court will particular to the Rules of Court. not examine it, so it is essential that you meticulously fill in every part of the application form. If a single part of the form has not been properly filled in, or information is missing or you have failed to include copies of the requisite documents, the Court may refuse to register your application without examining it. 3 how to apply and how your application is processed Your application to the ECHR:

4 You can apply to the Court in one of the two official languages of the Do not call the Court to check whether your application arrived safely. The Court will contact you if it needs any more information. Council of Europe – French and English – or in an official language of any Council of Europe member State. The Central Office sorts the mail and sends your application to the You are not obliged to be represented by a lawyer at the start of the legal division whose job it is to deal with it, that is, the legal division procedure. However, if you decide to use the services of a lawyer, you responsible for the State against which the application is lodged. An must send the Court a duly signed document authorising your lawyer application against Germany, for example, will be sent to the legal to represent you before the Court. division that deals with German cases, because the people working in that division speak German and are familiar with the country’s legislation. When you have completed every part of the application form, send it to Your case will then be given a number and examined by a lawyer. This the following address together with copies of the relevant documents: does not necessarily mean that the Court has accepted your application; The Registrar If the Court contacts you, it just means that it has been registered. European Court of Human Rights you must reply within the specified time, otherwise your file may Council of Europe simply be rejected or destroyed. F-67075 Strasbourg cedex Once the Court has all the information it needs to examine your It is preferable that you send your application by registered letter. case, your application will be allocated to one of the Court’s judicial You must send it within the time-limit specified in the Convention. formations. The date the Court takes into account is the date of the postmark on the application you send. Please note that applications can only be Throughout the proceedings, even if they seem to be taking a long sent by post. time, you must wait for the Court to contact you. Because of the large number of applications it receives every year (over 50,000) and as In any event, you are strongly advised to send in your application the even larger number of cases pending before it, the Court cannot soon as possible after the proceedings at the national level have been acknowledge receipt of the letters and documents it receives or tell settled by a final judicial decision. you approximately when your case will be examined. The proceedings before the Court are in writing. Any information you YOU HAVE NOW POSTED YOUR wish to bring to the Court’s attention must be communicated in writing. APPLICATION TO THE COURT Your application will arrive at the Court’s Central Office, which receives about 1,500 letters every day. Because it receives so many letters, the Court cannot acknowledge receipt of your application immediately. 5 4 how to apply and how your application is processed Your application to the ECHR: European Court of Human Rights

5 beginning of the proceedings, the Court will invite you to use one THE EXAMINATION OF YOUR APPLICATION at this stage. Once again, it is the Court which will contact you . ̈ For your information, no application is ever sent directly before Grand Chamber of 17 judges the , but a Chamber may relinquish jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber or a case may be formations udicial 1. J referred to it at a more advanced stage in the proceedings. Once the Court is in possession of all the information it needs to Relinquishment is possible where the case raises a serious question examine your case, your application will be allocated to one of the affecting the interpretation of the Convention or if there is a risk Court’s judicial formations, depending on the type of case: a single of inconsistency with a previous decision of the Court. A case may judge, a Committee or a Chamber. also be referred to the Grand Chamber, at the request of any party, within 3 months of the delivery of a Chamber judgment, but the ̈ If your application is clearly inadmissible because it does not meet Court accepts such referral requests only in exceptional cases. all the required admissibility criteria, it will be dealt with by a . The inadmissibility decision given by that judge is single judge It is not possible to final and it will be communicated to you. ? does long take process tHe ow 2. H challenge the inadmissibility decision or request any further It is not possible to say how long it will take the Court, on average, to information about it. The Court will close the case and the file examine an application. It depends on the type of case, the judicial will be destroyed at a later date. formation it is assigned to, how swiftly the parties give the Court the If your case is considered to be a repetitive case, which raises an ̈ information it needs and many other factors. The Court examines issue on which the Court has already ruled in a number of cases, applications in a certain order, which takes into account the it will be handled by a . In this case, a Committee of 3 judges . This means, for importance and the urgency of the issues involved letter explaining the procedure will be sent to you. Once again, example, that the most serious cases or those which reveal the existence the Court will contact you if and when necessary . of problems on a large scale will be given priority, which explains why an application that was lodged later than yours may be decided while If your case is not considered to be a repetitive case, it will be ̈ your case is still pending before the Court. examined by a Chamber of 7 judges . The Chamber may still declare the case inadmissible and, if it does, that decision will 3. H earings be final, but if it considers the case admissible it will examine the merits of your complaint. Before doing that, however, it will first The Court holds hearings in a small number of Chamber or Grand communicate the application to the Government concerned, to Chamber cases (about 30 each year). If it decides to hold a hearing in inform them of the existence of the complaint and allow them to your case, you will be informed. All hearings are recorded and can be submit observations on the matter in dispute. Those observations viewed on the Court’s internet site. are then sent to you, to give you a chance to reply. Although you are not obliged to be represented by a lawyer right from the 7 6 how to apply and how your application is processed Your application to the ECHR: European Court of Human Rights

6 THE END OF THE PROCEEDINGS t He case is ̈ declared inadmissible If you have failed to meet one of the Court’s admissibility criteria the Court will declare your application inadmissible and that decision will be final. The Court may close cases in various ways. Judgment is given 2. a application is reJected He 1. t If your application was not declared inadmissible the Court, after examining it, may find that there has been no violation of the Convention ̈ He destroyed file t is or, on the contrary, that your rights have been violated. If it does find a If, at the start of the proceedings, the Court contacts violation, it may award you compensation. Note, however, that under you and you fail to reply or you do not reply within the no circumstances will the Court set aside a national court’s decision. prescribed time, the Court may take this to mean that you do not wish to take the matter any further, and decide to If the judgment is given by a Committee, it is final and there is no close the case. Your file will be destroyed and you will have possibility of appeal. A Chamber judgment becomes final 3 months no right of appeal against that decision. after it was delivered. During those 3 months you or the respondent Government may request that the case be referred to the Grand list tHe of ourt s c ’ ̈ t He case out is struck Chamber for fresh examination. Remember that the Court accepts such requests for referral only in exceptional cases. Grand Chamber At a more advanced stage of the proceedings, after your judgments are final and not open to appeal. application has been assigned to a judicial formation, the Court may strike it out of its list if you do not reply to its When a judgment finding a violation becomes final, the Court forwards requests within the prescribed time; it may take this to the file to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which mean that you do not wish to take the matter any further. is responsible for monitoring the execution of the Court’s judgments. It may also strike an application out of its list following a friendly settlement or a unilateral declaration. That brings the proceedings before the Court to an end. It is therefore essential that you reply to the Court To conclude, it is important to comply with the admissibility without undue delay. This will ensure that you are not criteria when lodging an application with the Court. If you fail considered to be an applicant who is not interested in to do this, the Court will be obliged to reject your application following through with his/her application and that the without examining your complaints. Court does not strike your application out of its list or close the file. What is more, when the Court declares an application inadmissible, that decision is final and it will not be possible for you to have the case reopened or to lodge a new application raising the same complaint. 9 8 how to apply and how your application is processed Your application to the ECHR: European Court of Human Rights

7 FREQUENTLY ASKED USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW QUESTIONS to Have not do i mean it does , ourt c tHe to apply i f „ i nonymity a „ Judgment tHe domestic final tHe witH comply given by ? courts The documents relating to the proceedings before the Court are accessible to the public. If you wish to remain anonymous, you No, applying to the Court has no suspensive effect. You must must say so when you fill in the application form, and explain why comply with the final decisions of the national courts even if you you do not want your identity to be disclosed. lodge an application with the Strasbourg Court. to Help ourt c tHe an c „ me ? lawyer a find riendly settlement f „ No, the Court cannot help you find a lawyer. Contact your local If the Court considers your application admissible it will endeavour Bar, for example, and ask them for a list of their members. to find an agreement – a friendly settlement – between you and the respondent Government. If that proves impossible, it will „ ? form application tHe in c fill an tHe c ourt Help me examine your complaints and deliver a judgment. No, the Court cannot help you with the application form. The Court must remain neutral in all proceedings brought before it. „ u declaration nilateral All it can do, therefore, is refer you to the application pack, which If you refuse an offer of a friendly settlement without justification, you can find on the internet and which contains all the documents and information you need to lodge an application. the Court may strike your application out of its list following a declaration by the Government acknowledging that there has tHere i ? system aid legal a s „ been a violation of the Convention and undertaking to provide you with adequate redress. Yes. However, you cannot request legal aid from the very start of the proceedings, but only when the case is communicated to the Government concerned. And please note that legal aid is not i nterim „ measures automatically granted to all those who request it. You may request an interim measure, but only if you are in „ ourt case i f i go to tHe c my in person , can i explain immediate danger or there is a serious threat to your health – for example, if you are about to be removed to a country where anytHing sooner directly or do ? to Have it dealt witH you risk being tortured. Definitely not. The proceedings before the Court are in writing and going to the Court serves no useful purpose whatsoever. It is a waste of your time. 10 11 how to apply and how your application is processed Your application to the ECHR: European Court of Human Rights

8 legal an tHe c ourt give me c advice ? „ It is not the Court’s role to give you legal advice about what formalities or steps you should take in your own country. Concerning the proceedings before the Strasbourg Court, everything is explained in detail in the information documents available on the Court’s internet site. The Court cannot tell you what chances your application has of succeeding; you must simply wait for it to issue a decision or deliver a judgment. „ c an tHe c ourt take any action in tHe country against wHicH lodge an application ? i No. The Court will not take any action on your behalf vis-à-vis the authorities against whom you lodge a complaint. In exceptional cases, however, it may ask the national authorities to take certain measures, or not to do certain things, until it has had a chance to examine a case (this is reserved mainly for cases where the applicant faces a risk of serious physical harm). tHe „ H as c ? ourt dealt witH otHer cases like mine The Court’s judgments are published on its internet site. You can search the existing judgments to see if the Court has already examined any cases similar to yours. i f my application „ declared inadmissible , can i appeal was against tHat decision ? Inadmissibility decisions are final and cannot be challenged. This shows how important it is that applicants make sure that they comply with all the admissibility criteria before applying to the Court. „ H ow can i obtain information about my case ? The Court cannot answer all the requests it receives for information about progress in the cases pending before it. As proceedings before it are in writing, the Court will write to you if it needs additional information, or at the different stages of the proceedings. Information may also be found on its internet site (concerning communication, questions to the parties, admissibility decisions and so on). 12 European Court of Human Rights

9 Your application to the ECHR: How to apply and how your application is processed European Court of Human Rights Council of Europe F-67075 Strasbourg cedex Design: © ECHR - Photo: © Shutterstock ENG

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