The Council of Europe is one of several regional inter-governmental organizations established in the aftermath of World War II. It is a separate and distinct entity from the European Union, and its membership is larger, encompassing almost every country located wholly or partly within the European continent, including Russia and Turkey. The Council's core mission is the promotion and protection of human rights.
Other council initiatives include promoting the rule of law by combating corruption and organized crime, facilitating the transition to democracy of post-communist and post-conflict states, promoting uniform standards at the regional level, and the preservation of cultural heritage. Much of the Council's work in the field of human rights is accomplished through the drafting of multilateral treaties.
Commissioner for Human Rights
The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established by the Council of Europe to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the Council's 47 member states. The Commissioner for Human Rights is elected by Council's Parliamentary Assembly to serve a non-renewable six-year term.
The Office of the Commissioner fulfills its mandate by monitoring each member state's compliance with applicable human rights standards and issuing country reports; by conducting thematic research on human rights topics; and by raising awareness of human rights issues in cooperation with other inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental civil society organizations.
Visit the Office of the Commissioner's website to access country monitoring reports and related documentation, and to learn more about the Office of the Commissioner's thematic work. It is also possible to browse for publications by document type (country reports, issue papers, opinions, etc.)
The European Court of Human Rights was established by Article 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court is responsible for ensuring that member states comply with their obligations under the Convention. The Court hears the following types of cases:
Prior to 1999, private petitions initially were reviewed by a Commission on Human Rights, which determined whether or not a petition would be referred to the Court for adjudication on the merits. Since the Commission was abolished in 1999, individuals may petition the Court directly. However, a petitioner must obtain a preliminary finding of admissibility from the Court in order for the petition to be considered on the merits.
Most adjudications on the merits are heard by a chamber of seven judges. Under certain circumstances, a judgment may be reviewed by grand chamber of 17 judges. The Court issues substantive judgments in both English and French (initially in one language before being translated into the other).
Visit the Court's website to access additional background information, the Rules of the Court, press releases, and more.
The ECHR's free database offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date coverage of the Court's judgments and decisions. The search interface can be intimidating for first-time users. Consult the following before searching:
The ECHR used to publish its judgments and decisions, as well as party pleadings and transcripts of oral arguments, in two official series of print reporters. The publication of these print reporters ceased in 1995. Since 1997, the Court has selectively published its most significant judgments and decisions in an annual print series entitled Reports of Judgments and Decisions.
To locate additional materials on the European Human Rights system from the Georgetown Law Library's collection, use the Advanced Search and select Law Library Catalog. Then select Subject as the search field and search for one of the following subject headings as an exact phrase:
For greater precision, use the first line to search for one of the subject headings listed above, and use the remaining lines to search for additional words or exact phrases using the default Any Field setting.
Courtroom of the ECHR in Strasbourg
Image by Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons
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