European Court of Human Rights


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The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was drafted by the Council of Europe. It was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950 and came into force in September 1953.
The Convention set forth a number of rights and freedoms and organized a system to ensure that the States observe the obligations they accept. Three institutions were responsible for such enforcement: the European Commission of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, consisting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States or their representatives.

Since then, the system to enforce the rights guaranteed by the Convention has undergone several changes. In particular, it was significantly reformed by Protocol no. 11, adopted in 1994 and in force since 1 November 1998. The Protocol abolished the European Commission of Human Rights as well as the Committee of Ministers’ decision-making power in handling applications. It established a new full-time Court to which any individual is entitled to apply directly.

Rulings of the Court establishing a violation of the Convention have real practical consequences and the Governments concerned are required to take measures to comply with them.

The Court is currently faced with a continuing increase in the number of cases, due both to new States ratifying the Convention and an overall rise in the amount of petitions filed against the State Parties. With 140,000 cases pending to date, the phenomenon looks set to continue.

In this context, a study of the need for a further reform was initiated at the Ministerial Conference on Human Rights held in Rome on 3 and 4 November 2000 to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Convention for signature. It resulted in drafting Protocol no.14 which entered into force in June 2010.

Unlike Protocol no. 11, Protocol no. 14 does not radically change the system of enforcement established by the Convention. The changes made above all aim to improve it by giving the Court the procedural means and the flexibility it needs to spend less time on manifestly inadmissible applications and on very similar cases, so that it can focus on the most important ones.

The Council of Europe is actively pursuing work on the means the ECHR needs to fulfil its role. While substantial improvements can be expected of Protocol 14, its shortcomings are already acknowledged.

Updated on : 07.01.01