European System for Human Rights Protection

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe (CoE) is an intergovernmental organisation which seeks to promote the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Europe. Created in 1949, it is based in Strasbourg, France. It has 46 member states and French and English are its official languages. The Council of Europe should not be confused with the European Union, which is a different organisation (more).

The CoE operates by means of conventions, judicial decisions, recommendations, technical assistance and partnership programmes. It produces reports and studies and conducts awareness campaigns. Its principal institutions are:

  • Committee of Ministers, the decision-making body, consisting of foreign ministers from the member countries or their permanent representatives; set up by the Statute of the Council of Europe
  • Parliamentary Assembly, a consultative body consisting of delegates from parliamentary bodies across Europe; set up by the Statute of the Council of Europe (under the original name, Consultative Assembly)
  • European Court of Human Rights, set up in 1959 under the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, a non-judicial institution set up in 1999 to further the CoE’s human rights work
  • Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, a representative body committed to local democracy; created in 1957 as the Conference of Local Authorities of Europe and renamed the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in 1975, before receiving its current title in 1994

From 1954 until 1998 there was also a CoE body called the European Commission of Human Rights, established under the European Convention on Human Rights. Its role was to issue decisions on the admissibility of applications to enforce Convention rights and to produce reports on admissible applications, with the aim of encouraging settlements. The Commission merged with the Court in November 1998.

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)   
This is the best-known Council of Europe treaty. Its formal title is Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, but it is almost always known as the ‘European Convention on Human Rights’. It opened for signature in 1950 and came into force in 1953; numerous protocols have amended it over the years.

The ECHR is number 5 in the European Treaty Series (ETS 5); it is available on the CoE website in the original version and as  amended.

Cases under the European Convention on Human Rights

Council of Europe human rights cases are available on HUDOC

HUDOC is the European Court of Human Rights’ own case database, containing*:-

  • judgments, decisions and advisory opinions of the European Court of Human Rights, 1959 to date
  • resolutions of the Committee of Ministers:1959 to date (on execution, 1972 onwards; on merits, 1959 to July 2004)
  • public reports by the European Commission of Human Rights,1963 onwards
  • information about pending cases, including statements of facts and complaints (under ‘Communicated Cases’)
  • press releases issued by the Court’s Registry
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