The principal judicial and quasi-judicial organs charged with defining and overseeing State compliance with international human rights obligations are the European Court of Human Rights and European Committee of Social Rights, both created under the auspices of the Council of Europe.  The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental organization with 47 Member States; its only connection to the European Union is that the European Union itself, the (currently) 27 EU Member States, and candidates for membership are required to ratify the  European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)). See Treaty of the European Union, art. 6.


Seat: Strasbourg, France     Instrument: ECHR       Operating Since: 1959

The European Court of Human Rights started operating in 1959 and has delivered more than 10,000 judgments regarding alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The vast majority of its judgments have been emitted in the decade following the reform of the European system in 1998 to eliminate the Commission, which previously decided the admissibility of petitions, oversaw friendly settlements, and referred cases to the Court when a binding adjudication was desired- similar to the current Inter-American System.

More about judges, grand chambers, etc…..


Seat: Strasbourg, France      Instrument: European Social Charter     Operating Since:  1998

The European Committee of Social Rights oversees compliance with the European Social Charter, which lays out specific obligations with regard to economic and social rights.  The Charter system is unusual for its flexible procedure and its supervisory mechanism. While all Council of Europe Member States have signed the original (1961) or revised (1996) European Social Charter, the Charter itself permits article-specific reservations and optional acceptance of the innovative collective complaints procedure.  The fifteen Committee members are elected for six-year, renewable terms of office, as set out in its Rules.

Against those 12 Member States which have accepted the collective complaints procedure, approved employer and trade unions and non-governmental organizations may present complaints alleging violations of the Charter.  The Committee adopts decisions on the admissibility and merits of those complaints.  Since the procedure was initiated in 1998, the Committee has decided 59 complaints.

The Charter requires signatories to present reports to the Committee on one of four thematic areas each year.  The Committee adopts conclusions on States’ conformity with the Charter, based on the information presented in States’ reports.


The Commissioner for Human Rights, currently Thomas Hammarberg, has existed since 199 and is charged, generally, with promoting respect for human rights in the 47 Council of Europe Member States, through reports, dialogue and recommendations.

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