Stricter conditions for applying to the European Court of Human Rights

The Plenary Court approved a revision of Rule 47 of the Rules of Court which sets out what an individual application to the Court should contain. The purpose of the amendment is to achieve greater efficiency in the way applications are dealt with at the initial stage of the process before the Court (more …).

The amendments will entail two important changes as from 1st January 2014.

First, the rules on what an application must contain will be applied in a stricter way. An application which does not contain the necessary information will not be examined by the Court. Secondly, the time-limit for an application to the Court will be applied more strictly in the sense that it is only if an application fulfils the conditions of Rule 47 that the running of time will be interrupted.

As regards the first amendment, i.e. the stricter application of the requirements concerning the contents of an application, the guiding principle is that applicants must provide the Court with sufficient information to allow it to conduct an initial analysis of the application. Introducing an application before the Court is a formal legal act and it is consistent with that to require applicants to observe basic formalities.

Each application submitted to the Court should contain all the essential information about the complaints made, and be accompanied by the necessary supporting documents (in particular copies of the relevant domestic decisions). This will allow the Registry to determine the nature and scope of the case at the outset. In this way, high priority cases can be identified at the initial stage. Similarly, applications with obvious problems of admissibility will be submitted rapidly to a single judge for decision.

That said, the revised Rule is not inflexible. It will not apply where there is an “adequate explanation” for the failure to present the application in the required form. The Court retains discretion to accept an application even if not presented in the correct form. A specific exception is also made for applicants seeking interim measures.

The second key point of the reform concerns the six-month time-limit. Under present practice, the six-month period can be interrupted by an incomplete application or a simple letter. Under the amended rule only an application satisfying the formal requirements will interrupt the running of time, the relevant date being that of the postmark on the envelope.

The Court is now taking all necessary steps to inform the public appropriately, so that potential applicants are put on notice of the changes to the Court’s long-established practice. It aims to ensure that the legal profession as well as civil society organisations are made aware of the change.

The new application form and clear guidance on the new requirements for introducing a valid application are being prepared in all of the official languages of the 47 Contracting Parties.

New technological tools have also been utilised in order to reach and give guidance to applicants as widely and as practically as possible. In addition to the existing videos about the Convention and admissibility criteria, a new video on “How to lodge an application with the Court” has been prepared and will be available from January in English and French. Turkish, Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian versions will follow immediately, whereas other language versions will be added in the course of 2014.

All documents and supporting material will be available on the Court’s internet site as from 1 January 2014 (www.echr.coe.int/applicants).

The Registrar of the Court would like to invite you to disseminate this information as widely as possible via your internet sites and other tools at your disposal in order to assist the Court in informing applicants about the change.

- link to the Press release
- link to the video “The Correct way to lodge an application with the Court