European Court of Human Rights

France and the European Court of Human Rights

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was drafted within the Council of Europe. It was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950 and entered into force in September 1953.

It was ratified by France on 3 May 1974 and France accepted the right of individual application in 1981.

The European Court of Human Rights which is headquartered in Strasbourg, is composed of 47 judges (1 judge elected by each Member State of the Council of Europe, and therefore party to the European Convention of Human Rights). The French judge, André Potocki, who was a magistrate at the Court of Cassation from 2005 to 2011 took up office on 4 November 2011 for a 9-year fixed-term mandate. His time in office will end in late November 2020.

The judgements of the European Court of Human Rights which judge there to be a violation of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms have real practical consequences. They drive involved States to take measures to comply with such judgements as they have executory force.

The European Court of Human Rights has to deal with a significant number of applications. It had 151,600 pending applications as at 31 December 2011. Following reform (notably with the adoption of Protocol No. 11 in 1994 which profoundly changed the organization of the European Court of Human Rights) this number was brought down to 64,850 as at 31 December 2015. This figure has since risen, however, due notably to the context of multiple crises (terrorism, migrants, etc.) and currently stands at around 80,000 pending requests as at May 2017. It is therefore necessary to remain vigilant and reviews are being carried out to ensure the long-term future of the conventional system.

Very few of the applications to the European Court of Human Rights come from France. Just over 65% of the 80,000 pending cases come from 5 States who send the highest number of applications : Ukraine, Turkey, Hungary, Russia and Romania.

As of 31 December 2016, France had 403 pending applications to the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2016, the Court made 23 judgements regarding France, of which 14 noted one or more breaches. This figure has remained relatively stable since 2011. The European Court of Human Rights has also taken 11 decisions declaring applications inadmissible and 14 decisions to strike applications.

France’s good statistics illustrate the fact that, after having resolved by legislative reforms certain “structural” problems that had created a large number of applications in the past (notably in the field of Article 6 and judgement timeframes, for example), it is no longer a source of a large number of repeat applications. It is important to remain prudent however, notably as regards the detention conditions in some of France’s penitentiary establishments which have recently be subject to numerous applications to France.

France actively participates in reviewing the longer-term future of the conventional system, notably within the framework of the Brussels Conference in May 2015, which reaffirmed the importance of the individual right of application, the principle of subsidiarity and focused on the shared responsibility of Member States, the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Ministers in implementing the Convention. Within the framework of the work of the Human Rights Steering Committee, France is particularly involved in the work regarding the process for selecting and electing judges to the European Court of Human Rights ; the status of the Convention in the European and international legal framework and the promotion of the revised European Social Charter and its collective applications procedure, in order to guarantee effective and equal access to social rights.

As part of this ongoing review, France intends to make the means of ensuring the future of the European Court of Human Rights an important theme in its future presidency of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe (mid-November 2019).

Updated : July 2017

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