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Council of Europe Research

Council of Europe Research

Council of Europe Legal Research

This guide provides legal research information for the following: 

  • Council of Europe (COE)
  • The COE's major human rights treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights, and
  • The COE's main judicial body, the 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.

Harvard's HOLLIS Library Catalog

This guide includes links to pre-populated searches in Harvard's HOLLIS library catalog. These links appear in this format:

Click a link to run the described search. It will run in "Everything" mode, which returns both books and journal articles.

These searches are intentionally broad. Refine your search by re-running it with additional keywords and using the limiters on the right side of the search results screen.

The Council of Europe: An Overview

Introduction

The Council of Europe is an international organization comprised of 47 member states that protects and furthers human rights throughout Europe. Its homepage is https://www.coe.int/.

The Statute of the Council of Europe (https://rm.coe.int/1680306052) provides the a legal framework for the organization. 

The Council of Europe and the European 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. 

To read the ECHR, visit http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf.

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. Its homepage is https://www.echr.coe.int/. This court hears cases on potential violations of civil or political rights protected by European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The court's judges are from each of the 47 COE member states, and are elected 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 either a single Judge, a three-Judge Committee, or an entire Chamber.  

Researching ECtHR Case Law: Primary Sources

These electronic databases provide extensive coverage of ECtHR case law.  They can be searched by application number, case name, and more.

The Law Library also has the Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes reports of ECtHR case law, in print. It is located in the first floor stacks, call number KJC5132.A33 A7.  View its HOLLIS record at http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990001062680203941/catalog.

Researching ECtHR Case Law: Journals

There are also several journals that publish ECtHR opinions and provide scholarly analysis of the court's jurisprudence. Click a link to view the HOLLIS record for that journal.

Bluebook Citation Rules for ECtHR Cases

In the 21st edition of the Bluebook, citation instructions for ECtHR cases are under rule 21.5.3 (page 205).

For cases decided in 2015 or later, you can cite to the reported version of the case in the HUDOC database.

If the case was decided in 2014 or earlier, the Bluebook requires you to cite a print reporter, in the following order of preference:

  • European Court of Human Rights, Reports of Judgments and Decisions (Eur. Ct. H.R.)
    • Note: This publication is organized into volumes indicated by year and Roman numeral. To view the publication data for a case in HUDOC, click the "Case Details" tab and check the "Published in" field.
  • Yearbook of the European Convention on Human Rights (Y.B. Eur. Conv. on H.R.)
  • European Human Rights Reports (Eur. H.R. Rep.)

If an older case was not published in a print reporter, you can cite to the 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. Its homepage is https://pace.coe.int/.

PACE represents the European people rather than European governments. It meets four times per year, and develops initiatives to monitor human rights protections in the member states. It also elects the Council of Europe's officials and the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.

For more information about PACE's work, visit the sites listed below.

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