Appeal against the decisions of national courts to the European Court of Human Rights
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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is not a usual court. 47 countries fall under its jurisdiction, and it only considers the cases of citizens against the state. You can apply to the ECHR when you can’t get any help from the national courts.
The decisions of the European Court are obligatory. However, it is extremely difficult to achieve a favourable decision of the ECHR, or at least to get your case considered there – only 4% of applicants achieve success. We will explain why and tell you how to properly file a complaint in order to increase your chances.
Reasons for refusal of ECHR
The ECHR rejects most of the complaints because of non-compliance with the procedural requirements.
- Failure to meet deadlines. You must submit a complaint within 6 months from the date of the decision by the national court of appeal. If this deadline has passed, it is impossible to get a new one. This is one of the most frequent reasons for the ECHR refusals.
- Errors in the application. The ECHR application form is not similar to those of national courts. It has a clear structure and strict requirements. If the applicant is not familiar with the rules for completing the form, there is 99% possibility they will make an error. The court does not accept such a complaint for consideration and sends it back for correction which takes time, so the applicant runs the risk of missing the deadline.
- Non-compliance of the complaint with the Convention. The ECHR defends only those human rights and freedoms that are specified in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and its protocols. Before filing a complaint, make sure that your case falls under the ECHR activities, otherwise it will not be considered.
- Filing a complaint without an attorney. Only an attorney can represent an applicant in the ECHR. The court may allow the applicant to defend himself on their own, but such cases are extremely rare.
How to file a complaint
In order to properly draw up a complaint, you need to study the following documents:
- Content of the Convention and the protocols (in English).
- At least two or three ECHR decisions on similar cases.
- Rule 47 of the Rules of Court for the ECHR
- Official instructions for completing the complaint form issued by the ECHR (in English).
- Practical guidelines on eligibility criteria.
You must download the latest edition of the form from the ECHR official website. You can open this document on your computer using Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader. If you do not have these readers, you will have to download and install one of them, otherwise the document will not open. Both programs are available on the Internet.
Here is the first page of the form:
You should send the complaint to the following address:
European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex
If there is an attorney representing your rights, you will need a latter of attorney. Here is the first page of the letter:
In our practice, there have been cases when people filed a complaint being sure they will win the case, but got a refusal because of errors in their complaint form. Since it is impossible to re-apply to the ECHR, we recommend not taking any risks and bring in an attorney.
All the preparatory work that we do takes a few days. We send a complaint to Strasbourg and get a written confirmation proving that the complaint has been filed. This protects you from the risk of losing a complaint form and ensures that it is filed with the ECHR and not any other court.
Then we start correspondence with the court in the Ukrainian or/and English languages. We find, translate and send additional documents at the request of the court. We keep working until the court final decision and follow up its implementation. The latter is very important – Ukraine holds the 4th place among the countries failing to implement the ECHR decisions, so it is necessary to monitor this process.
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