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The pain and joy of submitting an application to the European Court of Human Rights

When lodging an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) it is important to keep in mind that it is a formal and quite complex procedure where even one small mistake can cost you your right to even recourse to the Court. In addition, ECHR is not a court of fourth instance and one cannot appeal to this Court with just any violation. In 2015, ECHR control filter eliminated 66% of the applications already in the first control round.

Five common mistakes applicants make in the first phase of the proceeding will be described.

1. Not paying attention to the obligatory form

Only a few years back it was unnecessary to use the form developed by the Court when submitting an application to the ECHR. However, this is no longer the case. If the applicant does not use the form downloaded from the Court’s website, the ECHR will not accept the application. Said form can be downloaded here.

2. Letting the application term pass

It is determined that the application must be submitted within six month time period as from the final national decision. It is important to keep in mind that from the moment all member states sign and ratify protocol No. 15 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms the application term reduces to four months. Thus, before lodging an application, make sure the shorter term has not been enforced.

3. Original signature and forgetting to tick the country box

The form requires original signatures to be presented to the Court. Both the applicant and the representative, if there is one, must sign the form. On the overleaf of the form you will find a list of countries that have joined the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Depending on the country of origin, the applicant must tick the box in front of the correct country. Otherwise, the Court will consider the absence of the ticked box a reason enough to consider the application flawed.


4. Eliminating flaws

Flaws can also be eliminated only within 6 months after the final national decision is made. This means that in case the applicant submits the application during the final week of the application term and the Court finds flaws in the application, the applicant will not have time to submit a new application – even if there is only one signature missing. If the application is submitted early enough and the applicant has time to correct the mistakes then the whole application must be submitted again. It is a mistake to submit only one page that contained an error.

5. Submitting an application on paper

You cannot apply to the Court by e-mail and faxing is not considered sufficient either. The application along with all the annexes must be sent to the Court by regular mail. Also, keep in mind that you must send the application to the Court in three copies.

In conclusion, be sure to have enough time when applying to the Court, especially if it is your first case in the ECHR. To start, peruse the numerous guides of the ECHR to avoid a situation where your application is refused due to a minor mistake.

TRINITI Law firm has represented several news organisations and journalists in the ECHR and provided an amicus curiae opinion for example in the dispute Magyar Jeti Zrt v Hungary.