The European Court of Human Rights

This court sits in Luxembourg. As European law has been enacted into English law by the European Communities Act 1972, the rulings of this court have direct authority upon English law and the courts. Its jurisdiction is to hear disputes between member states and also between those states and the Community institutions such as the Commissions. Additionally, an individual may appeal to the European Court where a Community rule creates rights or obligations which are to be ‘directly enforced’ by any one individual. A national court is obliged to refer any question to the European Court of Justice where a decision in relation to European law is required by that question. The International Court of Justice was established by the United Nations Treaty and sits in The Hague. Its jurisdiction is limited to hearing disputes between different countries on questions of international law where both countries consent to the hearing. Its decisions bind only the participating countries and in reality any decision from this Court is hard to enforce. Nonetheless, international law, which is based on custom, is usually regarded as being part of English law. Thus, a judgement of the International Court of Justice will establish an international legal principle which can be said to have some influence over the English courts. This Court was established by the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty signed in 1950 by 21 European States including the United Kingdom. The Court sits in Strasbourg. The function of the Court is to ensure that all Member States comply with defined civil and political rights. Cases may be taken to the Court by either Member States or private individuals. The Member States have agreed that they will accept the jurisdiction of the Court. It can be seen, therefore, that this Court has considerable influence over the development of English law.