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A judgment is only the beginning.

Winning a judgment at the European Court of Human Rights can be a great victory.

However, in many cases it is only the start of a longer story. More work is needed to ensure that wider society will feel the impact of a ruling.

Everyone can contribute to making sure this happens. This is how the process works.


The European Court issues a judgment

The rulings have great potential to protect human rights.

However, in order to have an impact, judgments must be properly implemented.

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The case passes to the Committee of Ministers

The Committee of Ministers is a diplomatic body made up of representatives of all 47 members states of the Council of Europe. It has responsibility for ensuring that judgments from the European Court are properly implemented.

In practice, much of the monitoring is carried out by the Council of Europe secretariat, in the Department for the Execution of Judgments.


Governments report activities

Member states must explain how they are to provide justice for victims - and make sure that the same problem does not happen to others.

They submit Action Plans to set out their intentions and update on progress.

Action Reports are submitted when a State claims that all necessary steps have been taken.


Others have a say

Governments are not the only ones who can report to the Committee of Ministers on the progress of implementation. Victims, NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions and international bodies can also have a say.

This is important to make sure that government plans are sufficient to address fundamental problems; and that governments can be challenged when they claim that problems have been resolved. It also helps ensure that individual victims get the justice required by the Court.


Changes at the national level

Crucially, implementation requires activities within the countries themselves if there are to be real improvements to human rights protections.

Governments, courts and/or legislatures have to take steps to make sure that the human rights violation is not repeated.

Wider society has a huge role to ensure that these steps are taken. Advocacy for change can be led by NGOs, the media, community organisations, politicians and activists.


Case closed

If justice has been done for the individual victims - and necessary changes have been made to stop the same problem from happening to others - the Committee of Ministers will end the supervision of the case.

For more details on how the process functions, see the EIN Handbook, or the Committee of Ministers Rules of Procedure.

Photo Credits: 1 and 2) Council of Europe; 3) GotCredit CC; 4) Tor Lindstrand CC; 5) Chris Goldberg CC