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Public International Law Research

A guide that highlights resources and recommended strategies for conducting research on international law topics.

European Court of Human Rights

General Overview

Established in 1950 by Council of Europe in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the "Convention"), the European Court of Human Rights (the "ECHR") serves as the main judicial forum for individuals to lodge complaints regarding breaches of their rights guaranteed by the Convention against member states of the Council of Europe.

The composition of the ECHR varies and the Convention does not specify a set number of judges for the court. However, the ECHR is typically composed of at least one judge from every member state on the Council of Europe.

The following table outlines the jurisdictional authority of the ECHR:

Private Petitions The ECHR has the authority to hear cases brought by individual citizens against a state party alleging a violation of a right guaranteed by the Convention.
Interstate Complaints The ECHR has the authority to hear cases brought by one state party against another for violations of the Convention.
Advisory Jurisdiction Under Protocol 16 to the Convention (opens as a PDF), the highest domestic courts of the member states may request the ECHR issue an advisory opinion on questions of interpretation relating to the Convention and its protocols. These questions can also arise out of pending cases before the domestic court that implicates rights guaranteed under the Convention.

Under Article 6 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union is required to join the Convention and will be subject to the jurisdiction of the ECHR. Once this accession formally occurs, individuals living within EU member states may file complaints with the ECHR for review of the acts of EU institutions. However, negotiations for the accession of the EU (opens as a PDF) to the Convention are still ongoing.

Locating ECHR Primary Materials

Online Primary ECHR Materials

Core Texts

The core texts for the ECHR are easily accessible through the ECHR's website and include the following:


Cases
HUDOC Database

The HUDOC database provides access to many of the underlying materials from ECHR cases. In addition to providing access to case decisions, the HUDOC database also provides links to legal summaries, case overviews, press releases, and video of the hearings. ECHR cases in the HUDOC database can be filtered by date, language of the materials, state, Article or violation number, and keywords. There is also an advanced search option that allows the researcher to search by specific citation information or create their own in-text keyword search.

Case Law Analysis

In addition to providing access to ECHR cases via the HUDOC database, the ECHR website also provides access to various "case-law analysis" tools, including the following:

  • Case-Law Information Note: A monthly publication, this document contains summaries of cases that are of particular interest and also provides news about the ECHR.
  • Overview of the Court's Case-Law: This publication is published once a year and highlights judgments and decision which raise new issues or advance matters of general interest.

World LII

The WorldLII website also provides access to judicial decisions from the ECHR from 1960-present. The database is not easily searched and only contain the judgments without any of the supporting content available on the ECHR's website. This is another free option for researchers wanting quick access to ECHR judicial decisions.

Lexis Advance

Lexis Advance also provides users with access to ECHR decisions and does allow for advanced terms and connectors searching in the opinions. This option is particularly useful if you are trying to identify cases dealing with specific provisions in the Convention or key issues. (Available only to UNC Law students and faculty.)


Other Publications

The Council of Europe's member States have adopted several Protocols to the Convention, which seek to improve the functioning of the ECHR. In addition, the ECHR regularly hosts high-level conferences focusing on potential reforms for the court and publishes reports highlighting recent changes. All of these materials are available on the ECHR's website at this link

Finally, the ECHR also makes statistical reports relating to the types of cases heard by the court available online. These reports include reports analyzing the individual years, member states, and key cases brought before the court.

Recommended Secondary Sources