Information on taking your case to ECHR, Strasbourg
The European Convention on Human Rights has been agreed by the United Kingdom Government, and is upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
But there will be many members, and others, whose rights may have been violated by the Government. We refer primarily, and give examples from, matrimonial and family law, although there will be other areas in which men are affected.
Information is available online at European Court of Human Rights website. They have a good internal search engine to assist with finding cases similar to your own, identified by topic or by Article number.
Hardcopies of the Convention, and other documents, including case decisions etc., may be obtained from :
European Court of Human Rights
Council of Europe
670756 Strasbourg Cedex
tel : 00 33 88 41 20 18
fax : 00 33 88 41 27 92
00 33 88 41 27 30
You should ask for a copy of the following :
the Rules of Court
application forms (3 copies are useful : 1 for your draft, 2 for your submission, and 3 a copy for your file) with accompanying notes
booklet on making an application.
Ask for at least one copy, preferably a few for other member's use, and for your own legal adviser whether that is a solicitor/barrister or not.
The Convention consists of a number of Articles, with additional Articles in the supplementary Protocols. The UK has ratified the Convention and Protocol No. 1 only. Listed below are those Articles which you will find of most interest.
You have to show that you have exhausted your domestic remedies. This may be taken to imply you should take your case up through the courts to the House of Lords, however if you can make argument that this would not address the violation, then you don't need to do this. Also, an on-going situation, for which no UK laws are available to remedy the violation, would also imply that you don't need to go up to the House of Lords.
You are asked to apply within 6 months of a decision by a domestic court - but note that in cases for which no UK laws are available, and in on-going situations, the 6 month limit does not apply.
The Court will ask you to write to them first, with brief information about your case. If they think that it is not obviously ill-founded, and that you are within the time limit, they can send you an Application form, which is usually supplemented with other documents. You will find a word processor invaluable, in not necessary, for this.
Don't be put off by the secretaries i.e. the administrative staff handling your case - they will try to put you off, and in fact have gone to underhand lengths to obstruct applications. You want a Judge to see your application.
If you get past the 'rapporteaur' stage, you can claim legal aid from Strasbourg. You won't get it in the UK, as the UK is your adversary. The Rules of Court (#91 - #96) give the regulations for this and explain that you are to complete a declaration on your income and assets, but no limits are given, simply that it is available if "the applicant has insufficient means to meet all or part of the costs entailed".
If the Court initially finds in your favour, it has the option to ask each party (yourself and the UK Government), to attempt to reach a 'friendly settlement'. This would imply that some negotiations in the UK will take place, although this may be in the form of a court hearing to look into the previous handling of the case. If this occurs, remember that you are essentially suing the UK government for human rights abuses, and that any settlement must be friendly to yourself not the government.
Most of the proceedings are done by post. They may culminate in a hearing in Strasbourg. However it is possible to complete a case without a hearing at all, and in fact Norman Scarth won a case without having to attend a hearing. Legal aid can cover the costs of attending a hearing.
The Court has 'secretaries' who are equivalent to the 'clerks of the court' in the UK. These secretaries have a brief to prevent cases reaching the judges. When they tell you that your case 'seems to have little prospect of success' or use other such statement, ignore this, and ask for it to be put forward and registered as a formal case with a case number. Be very firm with them. Norman Scarth had letters from the secretaries telling him that his case had little chance. He later won his case without even a hearing.
Please note that all domestic remedies have to be exhausted eg the Human Rights Act 1998.