The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) contains a catalogue of fundamental rights and freedoms. These rights and freedoms are binding on all 47 states which have signed the ECHR.
In order to ensure that the states meet these obligations, a specai court was established: The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR). Persons who think that one of their rights under the Convention, can lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights. The Court may rule that there has been a violation of the Convention and grant compensation.
In addition to that, a finding of a violation by the European Court of Human Rights may also have consequences on the domestic level. The legal orders of many state parties to the ECHR contain provisions according to which persons have a right to a retrial if the European Court of Human Rights finds that proceedings in which they were involved, was not in full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention are commonly accepted in democratic societies such as freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, the right to life or the prohibition of torture. Consequently, the are also entrenched in the legal orders of the states, which have acceeded to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Still, the European Convention on Human Rights is relevant. Firstly, the European Court of Human Rights sometimes interprets the rights guaranteed by the Convention in a different way than national courts. Therefore , filing an application with the European Court of Human Rights offers a valuable possibility to have actions by staes scrutinized in light of their compliance with the Court’s understanding of the Convention rights. Secondly, the ECHR and the Court’s jurisprudence may have an impact on proceedings on the domestic level. Judges consider judgments by the European Courts on Human Rights on legal issues which are relevant to the case they are dealing with. As a rule, references to the case law oft he European Court of Human Rights will rarely be the winning argument – but they may verz well be helpful to support the own arguments in a case before a national court further.