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Last update: 06-08-2007
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Organisation of justice - International law

International courts in Europe and the world

There are a number of international courts. Some cover matters of international criminal law, others have the task of resolving disputes between States, and others between States and individuals.

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in 1959 within the Council of Europe. It is based in Strasbourg, in France.

The Court enforces the principles laid down in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which entered into force in 1953.

The Court's judges are elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; they sit in the Court in an individual capacity, which means that they do not represent the States of which they are nationals.

Individuals who believe that their rights under the Convention have been violated by a public authority may, in certain circumstances, apply directly to the Court.

Before doing so, however, they must have exhausted all possibilities for appeal available in the country concerned and no more than six months must have elapsed since the last court ruling in that country.

If the Court finds that the application is admissible, the case will be heard inter partes, i.e. the Court will listen, in public session, to the arguments of the parties before taking a decision.

At this stage of the proceedings, the parties must be assisted by a lawyer.

Once the Court has given a final judgment, this is binding on the State concerned, which must then take all necessary steps to comply with it.

You will find useful information on how to apply to the Court, as well as an application form, on the Council of Europe's site (Information for persons wishing to apply to the European Court of Human Rights).

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It has its seat in The Hague. Its task is to settle in accordance with international law the legal disputes submitted to it by States. At the request of international organisations, it may also give advisory opinions.

Individuals therefore do not come directly under its jurisdiction.

Information on the jurisdiction and organisation of the Court can be found on its site.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has its seat in the same building in the Hague as the International Court of Justice. It offers a wide range of services to resolve disputes between States, and between States and private individuals, as well as disputes to which intergovernmental organisations are party. Its services include arbitration, conciliation, fact-finding committees and mediation.

You will find information on the jurisdiction and organisation of this Court on its site.

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Last update: 06-08-2007

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