The European Court of Human Rights: History, Structure, Functions, and Notable Cases

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was established in 1959 to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights in Europe. The ECHR is a part of the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization that aims to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Europe. The Court is located in Strasbourg, France, and is composed of judges from each of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. In this article, we will explore the history, structure, functions, and notable cases of the ECHR.

History of the ECHR:

The European Convention on Human Rights was created in the aftermath of World War II, with the goal of preventing the recurrence of the atrocities that had taken place during the war. The Convention was signed by the member states of the Council of Europe and came into force in 1953. The Convention guarantees a number of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of person, the right to a fair trial, the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to respect for private and family life.

The ECHR was established in 1959 as a mechanism to enforce the rights guaranteed by the Convention. Initially, the ECHR consisted of a Commission and a Court. The Commission was responsible for examining individual petitions alleging violations of the Convention, while the Court was responsible for hearing cases brought by member states against each other. The Court could also hear cases brought by the Commission against member states.

The ECHR continued to evolve over the years, with the addition of protocols to the Convention and the adoption of new procedures and practices. In 1998, the Protocol No. 11 to the Convention was adopted, which abolished the former system of separate commissions and courts, and established a single permanent court to hear all cases.

Structure of the ECHR:

The ECHR is composed of a number of different bodies, each with its own functions and responsibilities. The Court itself is composed of one judge from each of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The judges are elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and serve for a term of nine years.

The Court is supported by a number of other bodies, including the Registry, which is responsible for the administrative and legal support of the Court, and the Committee of Ministers, which is responsible for overseeing the execution of the Court’s judgments.

Functions of the ECHR:

The primary function of the ECHR is to hear cases brought by individuals and organizations alleging violations of the Convention by member states. Individuals and organizations can bring cases to the Court if they have exhausted all domestic remedies and if their case falls within the Court’s jurisdiction. The Court has jurisdiction over all member states of the Council of Europe and can hear cases involving violations of any of the rights guaranteed by the Convention.

In addition to hearing individual cases, the ECHR also issues advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe or by member states. The Court also plays an important role in promoting the development of human rights law in Europe through its judgments and decisions.

Notable cases:

Since its establishment, the ECHR has heard thousands of cases and has issued numerous landmark judgments that have had a significant impact on the protection of human rights in Europe. Some of the notable cases include:

  • Soering v. the United Kingdom (1989): This case established that the extradition of a person to a country where they may face the death penalty would be a violation of Article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Goodwin v. the United Kingdom (2002): This case established that the protection of personal data was a fundamental right protected by the Convention.
  • A, B and C v. Ireland (2010): This case established that the right to privacy includes the right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.
  • Kafkaris v. Cyprus (2008): This case established that the prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment, including spanking, was required by Article 3 of the Convention.

Conclusion:

The European Court of Human Rights plays a critical role in ensuring the protection of fundamental human rights in Europe. Through its decisions and judgments, the Court has established important precedents and helped to shape the development of human rights law in Europe. While the Court has faced criticism and challenges over the years, it remains a key institution in the protection of human rights in Europe and around the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *