What can I do if my rights are breached?
Within the EU, protection of fundamental rights is guaranteed both at national level by constitutional systems as well as at EU level by the Charter, EU legislation and the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU.
What to do if your rights are violated
Consult the chart for guidance
Protection of fundamental rights within the EU is guaranteed both at national level by EU countries' own constitutional systems and at EU level by the Charter, by EU legislation and by the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU.
The Charter protects individuals and legal entities against actions by the EU institutions that are not in conformity with fundamental rights. If this happens, the Court of Justice has the power to review the legality of the act.
If a national authority violates the Charter when implementing EU law, national judges, under the guidance of the Court of Justice, have the power to ensure that the Charter is respected.
In addition, the Commission can initiate infringement proceedings against the EU country which is violating fundamental rights when implementing EU law. This power does not exist when EU countries are acting on the basis of national law only.
Moreover, all EU countries have made commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights, independently of their obligations under EU law.
Therefore, as a last resort, and after exhausting all remedies available at national level, individuals may bring an action before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violation by an EU country of a fundamental right guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights has designed an admissibility checklist in order to help potential applicants work out for themselves whether there may be obstacles to their complaints being examined by the Court.
The Charter complements, but does not replace, national constitutional systems or the system of fundamental rights protection guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
What to do if a case falls outside the scope of EU law
The public authorities of the EU countries - legislative, executive and judicial - are only bound to comply with the Charter when implementing EU law, for example when applying EU regulations or decisions or implementing EU directives.
As the Charter states (article 51), its provisions are addressed to the institutions, bodies and organs of the EU with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity, and to the EU countries only when they are implementing EU law.
When EU countries act outside the implementation of EU law, their national constitutions protect fundamental rights and contain rules for their protection. In these cases, individuals need to address their complaint to the relevant national authority, be it the government, the national courts or specialised human rights bodies. For more information concerning the protection of fundamental rights on national level, you can consult the Fundamental rights' section of the European e-Justice Portal.