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Council of Europe

This guide provides an introduction to the Council of Europe and references to research materials.


Council of Europe Legal Research

This guide provides legal research information for the Council of Europe (COE), its major human rights treaty (the European Convention on Human Rights), and its main judicial body (European Court of Human Rights).

This research guide does not cover the European Union or the European Communities. It also does not discuss other international human rights courts, tribunals, or judicial bodies. Information on those is in the HLSL International Courts and Tribunals research guide.

COE Overview

The Council of Europe: An Overview

The Council of Europe is an international organization comprised of 47 member states throughout Europe. Its headquarters are in Strasbourg, France.  It protects and furthers human rights throughout Europe. The Statute of the Council of Europe provides the framework for the organization.

IMPORTANT:  Before you start any research, please inform yourself. The Council of Europe and the European Communities/Union are two different entities 

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), was completed in Rome in 1950.  It guarantees human rights protections to people in the Council of Europe's member nations. 

European Convention on Human Rights: HOLLIS Library Catalog Searches

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is the judicial body of the Council of Europe.  It hears cases on potential violations of civil or political rights protected by European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This court is comprised of judges from each of the 47 COE member states, and are elected to the court by the COE's Parliamentary Assembly. Each judge serves one non-renewable nine-year term.  

Applications to the Court are examined on their admissibility and merits by a single Judge, a three-Judge Committee, or an entire Chamber.  

ECtHR Case Law Research

Researching ECtHR Case Law: Primary Sources

If you have a citation to an ECtHR case, use these sources to locate the Court's opinion.

Researching ECtHR Case Law: Yearbook of the European Convention of Human Rights

The Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights covers the work of both the ECtHR and the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. It includes a full listing of Court judgments, broken down by subject-matter, as well as summaries of key judgments handed down by the Court during the year.

The law school library has this publication in print format, located at KJC5132.A33 A7 (ILS, 4th floor).

Bluebook Citation Rules for ECtHR Cases

Bluebook Citation Rules for ECtHR Cases

In the current (20th) edition of the Bluebook, citation instructions for ECtHR cases are under rule 21.5.3 (page 210).

For all ECtHR cases, the Bluebook's preference is to cite a print reporter, in this order:

  1. Case name
  2. Volume number
  3. Page number
  4. Year (where applicable)

Citing a Case: Practical Matters

Assume that you want to cite the 2008 ECtHR case of Kovach v. Ukraine, no. 39424/02.

You found the text of this case in the Council of Europe's HUDOC database:

screenshot of case found on Council of Europe's HUDOC database

You've clicked all of the tabs and looked at all of the versions on the website.  The only information that you have is that the "Importance Level" of this case is "Case Reports":

screenshot of case details highlighting Importance Level

This indicator means that it was reported in the European Court of Human Rights, Reports of Judgments and Decisions.

So, for Bluebook purposes, you are left with this:

Kovach v. Ukraine, 2008-__ Eur. Ct. H.R. ___.

Unfortunately, the Bluebook will not just let you cite the Internet version and be done with it. You have to check the 2008 Reports of Judgments and Decisions to get the volume and page number. Eventually, you will find that this case was reported in 2008-I, starting on page 179. Now you can finish the Bluebook citation:

Kovach v. Ukraine, 2008-I Eur. Ct. H.R. 179.


Rules for Other Reporters

If the case you are citing was not published in the Reports of Judgments and Decisions, you should also check the European Human Rights Reports. This is a different publication even though the names sound similar. 

There are a few other reporters that you can also check, especially if your case is older:

At this point, if you cannot find your case reported in print anywhere, you can cite the electronic HUDOC version.

Parliamentary Assembly

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is comprised of elected parliamentarians from the Council of Europe's 47 member states.  

PACE, which represents the European people rather than European governments, meets four times per year. It develops initiatives monitors human rights protections in the member states.  

PACE also elects the Council of Europe's officials and the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.


Getting Help from a Research Librarian

For help, visit the HLSL Ask a Librarian website:  

This site includes links to all of our research guides, contact information for the research librarians (phone, text, email, chat), and a schedule of our training classes.