Guarantor or Formalist?

Excessive requirements at the European Court of Human Rights?

18 / May

The acceptance of an application by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) resembles a bureaucratic paperwork. It is almost impossible to gain access for those who have decided, as a last resort, to go to the higher court and ask for the protection of their fundamental rights.

So, how do you get the ECHR to admit your application?

In order to gain access to the ECHR, you must pay a great deal of attention to the forms, as only then will you be heard and be able to ask for your rights to be defended.

Citizens can bring cases themselves, as the ECHR does not require the appearance of a lawyer and/or prosecutor. Given the overly formal nature of the Court, we give you some practical tips in case you decide to go it alone.

Firstly, you are obliged to use the application form that the ECHR has on its website. This is partly because the form has a barcode to digitise the information in the system.

In addition, you should also check which state you are filing the complaint against, as not all states are members of the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed, you can only use this Court against states that have ratified the Convention.

The next thing to do is to set out the case in writing. The facts must be stated concretely and chronologically so that the Court can understand exactly what happened and base its decision on that (maximum 3 pages).

Also, the rights that have been violated must be set out, remembering that only those established in the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights can be invoked and justified.

However, one of the main reasons for the rejection of the charge is that national remedies have not been exhausted. Therefore, all appeals at the national level must be listed with supporting documents in chronological order.

Despite the additional information that can be added (max. 20 pages), care must be taken as the form must be 100% complete for the ECHR to be able to make a decision. The remaining information is only regarded as supplementary.

Finally, two things not to forget:

(i) Enclosing the final decree. The Court will use this to check whether the application was filed in time (not older than 6 months);

ii) The original signature of the applicant (not his lawyer) on the last page of the form.

In view of all these requirements, we recommend that you follow the ECHR’s manuals in detail and ask for verification from legal advisers who are experienced in these procedures.

And finally, do not send any original documents with the application, because the ECHR does not keep any files or documents in case the application is rejected and a second application has to be submitted within the deadline!

Mª Dolores García Santos