How the Court works
Case processing and working methods
Life of an application
The flow chart indicates the progress of a case through the different judicial formations. In the interests of readability, it does not include certain stages in the procedure – such as communication of an application to the respondent State, consideration of a re-hearing request by the Panel of the Grand Chamber and friendly settlement negotiations.
Case-processing flow chart before the Court
The applications are assigned to judicial formations of the Court, that is to say a single judge, a committee or a Chamber. Some cases may also be referred to the Grand Chamber.
The Court has recently introduced a more targeted and more effective case-processing strategy, consisting in identifying potentially well-founded “impact” cases which address key issues of relevance for the State concerned or for the Convention system generally and which warrant speedier processing.
Summary-formula judgments and decisions
As of 1 September 2021 and for a two-year trial period, cases falling within the competence of the Committees of 3 judges will be drafted in a significantly more concise and focused manner. This new format of summary-formula judgments and decisions aims to reduce the Court’s backlog and is in line with the Court’s impact case-processing strategy announced earlier this year.
The Court takes into consideration the importance and urgency of the issues raised when deciding the order in which cases are to be dealt with. It established seven categories ranging from urgent cases concerning vulnerable applicants to clearly inadmissible cases dealt with by a Single Judge.
Priority policy (English)
Priority policy (Spanish)
The Court has developed the pilot-judgments procedure to cater for the massive influx of applications concerning similar issues, also known as “systemic or structural issues” – i.e. those that arise from the non-conformity of domestic law with the Convention as regards the exercise of a particular right.
Rule 61: Pilot judgment procedure (entry into force 1 April 2011)
Filtering Section & Rule 47
A respondent Government may make a declaration acknowledging the violation of the Convention and undertaking to provide the applicant with redress.
The Jurisconsult is responsible for ensuring the consistency of case-law and supplying opinions and information, in particular to the trial benches and the members of the Court (Rule 18).
Due to the Coronavirus COVID-19, visits to the Court are suspended until further notice.
- Information visits for legal professionals and law students can be organised. In general, the programme includes the screening of a documentary The European Court of Human Rights followed by a presentation on the role and work of the Court lasting approximately one hour. The presentation may also take place after the group has attended a hearing (see calendar of scheduled hearings).
- Information visits are organised only for groups comprising 25 people minimum. The minimum age of participants is 18 years.
- There are no guided visits of the building.
- Information visits only take place on working days. The Court is shut at the weekends and on public holidays.
- As we receive a very large number of requests, we recommend that you apply two months in advance.
- To book, please complete the Electronic form
Rules of security and conduct
- Strict punctuality is requested.
- The number of participants should not exceed that stated in the list of participants, which will be required beforehand.
- Appropriate dress is required.
- For security reasons, access is only given to those parts of the building that are open to the public. Access to the cafeteria is prohibited.
- The building does not have cloakroom or left-luggage facilities. Baggage will not be accepted under any circumstances.
Please ensure that these instructions are followed.
Summary record of the inaugural ceremony (23 February 1959) (in French only)
First session of the Court (1959)
Establishment of the Court (1959) (in French only)
First election of judges (1959) (in French only)
Opening of the judicial year (1960) (in French only)
First case referred to the Court (1960) (in French only)
First case of the Court (1960)
First public hearing (3 October 1960)
Arrangements for conservation of the Archives & Access to case files
Documents deposited with the Registrar are accessible to the public unless the President of the Court decides otherwise.
All requests must be made via the dedicated form. Case file consultations in the Court's premises have been suspended since March 2020 due to sanitary restrictions.
Requests for permission to consult files should be made using the online form.
Records and archives policy
The Registrar of the Court has established guidelines for the records and archives policy of the ECHR.