European Court of Human Rights’ Updated Country Fact Sheets Present Detailed Portrait of State-Specific Jurisprudence & Caseload

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced yesterday that it has updated its country-specific Factsheets to include new information on pending and resolved cases, as well as its caseload statistics.  This State-specific information provides valuable insights into the types of human rights problems being raised before the Court in each Council of Europe Member State, the nature and effectiveness of victims’ and advocates’ engagement with the Court, and areas in which increased education and capacity building could be beneficial.  Each document identifies the amount of money each State contributes to the Council of Europe’s budget, as well as the number of each country’s citizens who are staff members in the Court’s Registry. The factsheets are also a useful point of entry for those researching the Court’s jurisprudence.

Statistics on Applications before the European Court

The State-specific factsheets include annual statistics on the number of applications submitted against each of the 47 Council of Europe Member States and the way in which the applications were resolved, including the number of cases in which the Court found a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights or granted interim measures.  The sheets further indicate the number of applications declared inadmissible by a single judge, a Committee, or Chamber, indicating the proportion of applications per country which fail to meet the basic requirements for submitting a complaint. See European Convention on Human Rights, arts. 27, 28.  Generally, the fact sheets include statistics from 2010 to 2013.

On average, the Court dealt with 1,871 applications per State in 2012, but the statistics illustrate the striking disparity between the volume of applications resolved and the number of judgments actually rendered. For example, the Court dealt with 22,358 applications against Russia (the highest among Member States), but the Court struck nearly 99% of the applications as inadmissible and rendered only 122 judgments finding Russia had violated at least one provision of the European Convention.  This number also represents the highest number of judgments made against any State in 2012.

San Marino, on the other hand, was the subject of the fewest number of applications (2) decided by the Court in 2012, with one application found inadmissible. In some instances, the European Court declared inadmissible or struck out every application made against the State, as was the case for CyprusLiechtenstein, and Monaco.  In 2012, the median number of applications received per State appeared to be 626, the number filed against the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

While some of the European Court’s reported statistics are expected based on the number of applications or population size of the respective State, others are more surprising. For example, the largest number of requests for interim measures handled by the Court in 2012 came from the United Kingdom (692), even though the number of applications submitted was only above average.  Sweden and France similarly had more than 100 requests for interim measures, which was proportionately high compared to the number of complaints against them, as compared to Russia which was named in many more applications, but the subject of only 82 requests for interim measures.  Although the country-specific Factsheets do not provide insight into the types of violations the European Court found warranted the imposition of interim measures, the Court’s jurisprudence database allows visitors to search for decisions based on, among others, Rule 39 which governs interim measures.

These figures do not take into account the applications pending resolution.  As of June 30, 2013, the European Court had 113,350 applications pending before it, with the majority of those against RussiaItalyTurkey, and Ukraine.  Serbia currently has the most number of applications pending before the Grand Chamber.  The European Court’s website also provides the schedule of public hearings in pending applications.

Selected Caselaw from Each Member State

Aside from statistics, each factsheet also contains useful summaries of noteworthy cases arising out of each State. Most are organized according to human rights categories, such as freedom of expression.  The summaries also indicate the status of each case, such as whether a final decision has been reached, the case is currently pending before the Grand Chamber, or a hearing has been scheduled for a specific date.  In this regard, the factsheets provide an illuminating snapshot of the types of human rights violations occurring in each Member State, and of the pending cases that will present novel or complex issues for the Court’s consideration.

Statistics on Judgments Finding Human Rights Violations per Member State

Other information that human rights advocates and victims may find particularly useful is the European Court’s data on types of human rights violations per Member State, as reflected in its 2012 decisions.  The chart provides a comparative survey of the alleged violations of each article of the European Convention on Human Rights, per State, giving the reader an overview of the human rights concerns in each country and/or the types of situations in which victims or advocates are most likely to seek recourse before the European Court of Human Rights.

For instance, the data indicates that the Court found Romania had violated Article 3 (prohibition of inhumane or degrading treatment) in 25 of the 70 cases in which it found a violation.  Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey were among those States where the Court found the highest number of violations of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and Article 6 (right to a fair trial).  Both Poland and Turkey had the highest number of violations of Article 23 (right to property) among the cases decided on the merits in 2012, and Russia was found to have engaged in the highest number of deprivations of the right to life (15 of 36 cases in which the Court found such a violation).

For more information on regional human rights protection and promotion, visit IJRC’s page on Europe.