A unique and effective mechanism

The Contracting parties undertake to abide by the final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights ("the Court") in the cases to which they are parties (Article 46, paragraph 1). The Convention entrusts the Committee of Ministers with the supervision of Court judgments (Article 46, paragraph 2), as well as the terms of the friendly settlements (see notably Article 39, paragraph 4, as amended following the entry into force of Protocol No. 14, on 1st June 2010).

Most judgments only declare the violations established, leaving to the States, under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers, to define the required execution measures. These measures depend on the circumstances of each case.  In a certain number of recent judgments, in particular those concerned by the pilot judgment procedure, the Court has, however, started to make certain recommendations with respect to execution.

When exercising its supervisory function, the Committee of Ministers is assisted by the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the Court (established within the Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs).

The obligation to abide by the judgments encompasses two main elements. As far as the applicants individual situation is concerned, the main obligation is to ensure that measures are taken which achieve, as far as possible, restitutio in integrum for the applicant. Such measures include notably the effective payment of the just satisfaction allocated by the Court (including the payment of default interests in case of belated payment). When the consequences of a violation cannot be adequately erased by the just satisfaction awarded, the Committee of Ministers makes sure that the domestic authorities take the other specific individual measures in favour of the applicant which may be required. Such measures can, for example, consist in the granting of a residence permit, the reopening of a judicial procedure and/or the erasure of a conviction from the criminal records.

On a more general level, the obligation also includes the prevention of violations similar to those found by the Court. General measures which may be necessary include notably constitutional changes or legislative amendments, changes in the case-law of the national courts, as well as practical measures, such as the recruitment of judges or refurbishing obsolete prison facilities. The efficiency of domestic remedies is an important element of general measures and States are notably recommended by the Committee of Ministers to review, following Court judgments which point to structural or general deficiencies in national law or practice, the effectiveness of the existing remedies and, where necessary, set up effective ones, in order to avoid repetitive cases being brought before the Court.

In view of the direct effect frequently given to the Court's judgments by national courts and authorities in many countries, the mere publication and dissemination of the judgments, where necessary translated and with accompanying instructions/recommendations, is in many circumstances sufficient to achieve the changes in law and practice necessary to prevent new violations and ensure the effectiveness of domestic remedies.

As to the supervision procedure, it is based on "action plans" and "action reports" submitted, by the respondent State to the Committee of Ministers. "Action plans" and "action reports" can be consulted under "Additional information".

Since 2011, the Committee of Ministers supervises the execution process, and in particular the adoption and implementation of action plans, through a new twin track procedure: a standard one for most cases and an enhanced procedure for cases requiring urgent individual measures or revealing important structural problems (notably pilot judgments). Enhanced supervision is also applied to inter-state cases. Where necessary, the Committee may intervene to support the execution process, notably through decisions and interim resolutions with suggestions and recommendations. In addition, states can, in the context of their examination of the necessary execution measures request support from the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the Court (advise, legal expertises, round tables and other targeted cooperation activities). Important support in this latter respect is given by the Human Rights Trust Fund.

Following the entry into force of Protocol No. 14, on 1st June 2010, the Committee can refer a case to the Court, if it considers that the execution of the judgment is hindered by a problem of interpretation of the judgment, or if it considers that the respondent state is refusing to abide by the judgment (Article 46, paragraphs 3 and 4).

Where the Committee of Ministers considers that all execution measures required have been adopted, it closes its examination of the case by adopting a final resolution (awaiting the adoption of such a resolution, cases are listed under a special appendix to the agenda).

Details on the supervision of the execution of Court judgments by the Committee of Ministers can also be found in the annual reports presenting, inter alia thematic overviews of the main cases in which developments have intervened in the course of the year and statistical data on the execution of Court judgments.

Information on the inter-governmental work engaged in order to guarantee the long term efficiency of the ECHR system, including efforts to accelerate the execution process and make it more efficient can be found on: http://www.coe.int/T/E/Human_rights/cddh/