Any person, group of individuals or non-governmental private organisations whose rights have been violated can bring an application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A complaint does not have to be made using an application, it can be made by letter, (but a form may have to be completed later).
Complaints should be made to:
Secretary of the Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg cedex
The complaint should include details of the complainant and anyone acting on their behalf, the country which is to be the respondent, a statement of the facts, description of the relevant domestic/national law, the Convention rights relied on, the purpose of the application, the remedies sought and any judgments or decisions relevant to the complaint.
A complaint must be made within 6 months after the last available remedy in the national court of the applicant.
The case will then be registered. A judge known as rapporteur will be appointed, if and where necessary they will ask for more information. The case will then either be passed to the chamber or a committee to decide on the merits of the application and whether it is admissible. If the case is admissable the respondent country will be invited to give written observations. Further written observations may then be invited from both sides and the chamber will then hold a hearing. Usually strict time limits are imposed on the length of the hearing, (rarely more than 90 minutes).
The European Court of Human Rights has its own system of Public Funding, which may be available to an applicant.
The parties are also contacted by the Registrar of the Court to see whether there is a possibility of settlement between the parties. If the Court decides there has been a violation of Convention rights it can award compensation, costs and expenses as "just satisfaction". Complex cases will be dealt with by the grand chamber.
The European Court of Human Rights will not hear a case if it is based on the same facts of a case previously rejected. The final judgment of the court is not binding on the national state, but all states that are a party to the Convention have agreed to respect the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in any action where they are a party.