How the Court works - ECHR
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.
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
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).
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 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.
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.
Requests for permission to consult files should be made using the online form.