How the Court works


The task of the Registry is to provide legal and administrative support to the Court in the exercise of its judicial functions. It is therefore composed of lawyers, administrative and technical staff and translators.


Case processing and working methods

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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.

 Life of an application 

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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.

 Simplified case processing flow chart before the Court 

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Case-processing strategy

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.

 A Court that matters / Une Cour qui compte

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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.

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Priority policy

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)

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Pilot-judgments procedure

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)

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Filtering Section & Rule 47

The Filtering Section is responsible for sorting applications in order to direct them to the appropriate judicial formation.

 Filtering Section progress report (2011)

Rule 47 sets out the information and documents that must be provided in order to lodge a valid application.

 Report on Rule 47 (2015)

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Unilateral declarations

A respondent Government may make a declaration acknowledging the violation of the Convention and undertaking to provide the applicant with redress.

 Unilateral declarations

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Single Judge procedure

System for single judge decisions:

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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).

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Thematic committee for immigration-related cases

The Court has set up a thematic committee of three judges for immigration-related cases (Article 26 § 1 and Article 28 of the Convention, and Rule 27 of the Rules of Court).

This is a transversal committee that will deal, for all the States Parties to the Convention, with cases on immigration matters falling within the Court’s well-established case-law (Committee cases concerning expulsions, extraditions and related issues). This is the first such thematic committee to have been set up by the Court.

The President has decided to allocate the cases to be handled by the immigration committee to Section V (Rule 52 § 1).

The aim of the immigration committee is to bring together expertise and efficiency, to further ensure the consistency of case processing within the well-established case-law category. The procedure and activity of this committee are similar to those of the existing committees which deal with cases to be examined on the basis of settled case-law (Article 28 of the Convention). Cases falling outside this category will continue to be heard by Chambers of seven judges.

Information visits

  • 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. 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.


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Historical documents

 Recommendation on the establishment of the Court (1958)

 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)

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Arrangements for conservation of the Archives & Access to case files

 Arrangements for conservation of and access to the Archives

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. 

 Practical arrangements

Requests for permission to consult files should be made using the online form.

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Records and archives policy

The Registrar of the Court has established guidelines for the records and archives policy of the ECHR.