Procedure before the European Court of Human Rights

Any Contracting State (State implication) or individual claiming to be a victimof a violation of the Convention (individual application) may lodge directly with theCourt in Strasbourg an application alleging a breach by a Contracting State of one of the Convention rights.A notice for the guidance of applicants and forms for making implications may be obtained from the Registry.

The procedure before the new European Court of Human Rights is adversarialand public. Hearings are, in principle, public, unless theCamber/Grand Chamber decides otherwise on account of exceptional circumstances.Memorials andother documents filed with the Court's Registry by theparties are accessible to the public.

Individual applicants may submit applications themselves, butlegal representation is recommended, and even required .The Council of Europe hasset up a legal aidscheme for applicants who do not have sufficient means.

The official languages of the Court are English and French, but applications may be drafted in one of the official languages of the Contracting States. Once the application has been declared admissible, one of the Court's official languages must be used, unless the President of the Chamber/Grand Chamber authorizes the continued use of the language of the application.

Each individual application is assigned to a Section, whose President designates a rapporteur.After a preliminary examination of the case, the rapporteur decides whether it should be dealt with by a three-member Committee or by a Chamber.

A Committee may decide, by unanimous vote,to declare inadmissible or strike out an applicationwhere it can do so without further examination. Individual applications which are not declared inadmissible by Committees or which are referred directly to a Chamber by the rapporteur and State applications are examined by a Chamber. Chambers determine both admissibility and merits, usually in separate decisions but where appropriatetogether.

Chambers may at any time relinquish jurisdiction in favor of a Grand Chamber where a case raises a serious question of interpretation of the Convention or where there is a risk of departing from existing case law, unless one of the parties objects to such relinquishment within one month of notification of the intention to relinquish.

The first stage of the procedure is generally written, although the Chamber may decide to hold a hearing, in which case issues arising in relation to the meritswill normally also be addressed.Chamber decisions on admissibility, which are taken by majority vote, must contain reasons and be made public.

Once the Chamber has decided to admit the application, it may invite the parties to submit further evidenceand written observations, including any claims for justsatisfactionby the applicant, and toattend a public hearing on the merits of the case.

The President of the Chamber may, in the interests of the proper administration of justice, invite or grant leave to any Contracting State which is not party to the proceedings, or any person concerned who is not the applicant, to submit written comments, and, in exceptional circumstances, to make representations at the

hearing. A Contracting State whose national is an applicant in the case is entitled to intervene as of right.

During the procedure on the merits, negotiations aimed at securing a friendly settlement may be conducted through the intermediary of the Registrar.The friendly settlement negotiations are confidential.

Chambers decide by a majority vote. Any judge who has taken part in the consideration of the case is entitled to append to the judgmenta separate opinion,either concurring or dissenting,or a bare statement of dissent.

Within three months of delivery of the judgment of a Chamber, any party may request that a case be referred to the Grand Chamber if it raises a serious question of interpretation or application or a serious issue of general importance. Such requests are examined by a Grand Chamber panel of five judges composed of the President of the Court, the Section Presidents, with the exception of the Section President who presides over the Section to which the Chamber that gave judgment belongs, and another judge selected by rotation from judges who were not members of the original Chamber.

A Chamber's judgment becomes final at the expiry of the threemonth period or earlier if the parties announce that they have no intention of requesting a referral or after a decision of the panel rejecting the request for referral to theGrand Chamber.If the panel accepts the request, the Grand Chamber renders its decision on the case in the form of a judgment. The Grand Chamber decides by a majority vote and its judgments are final. All final judgments of the Court are binding on the respondent States concerned.

Responsibility for supervising the execution of judgments lies with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. It is thus for the Committee of Ministers to verify whether States in respect of which a violation of the Convention is found have taken adequate remedial measures to comply withthe specific or general obligationsarising out the Court's judgments .


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