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New Protocol No. 15 to the European Convention on Human Rights changes the criteria for submitting applications to the European Court of Human Rights

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
21.4.2021 8.21 | Published in English on 21.4.2021 at 14.40
Press release

Adopted in June 2013, Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) will enter into force on 1 August 2021. It will introduce substantial changes to the right to submit applications to the European Court of Human Rights.


The present fifteenth protocol amending the ECHR was adopted and opened for signature on 24 June 2013. Along with the other States Parties, Finland signed the Protocol on that date and ratified it on 17 April 2015. Its entry into force is conditional on the consent of all the States Parties to be bound by it. The Protocol will enter into force on 1 August 2021, following ratification by Italy on 21 April 2021 as the last State Party.

Protocol No. 15 brings some major changes to the process of lodging an application with the European Court of Human Rights that sits in Strasbourg. First, the time limit for submitting application will be reduced from the current six months to four months after a final domestic decision. This curtailed time period is, however, subject to a transition rule under which the four-month application period will not be effective before 1 February 2022. The shorter application period will also not apply to cases where the final national decision was given prior to the entry into force of the Protocol, i.e. before 1 August 2021.

Another major change concerns the admissibility criteria of a human rights application as related to ‘significant disadvantage’. Following this amendment, accepting an application implies that the applicant must have suffered a significant disadvantage, even if the alleged human rights violation had not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal. Consequently, the European Court of Human Rights will no longer process applications that can be characterised as insignificant.

The Protocol underlines the subsidiarity of the application mechanism under the Convention in relation to applying the Convention at national level. Alleged human rights violations should primarily be processed before national courts.

The Protocol also sets an upper age limit of 65 years for judicial candidates to the Court and removes the right of the parties to an application to object to relinquishment of jurisdiction by a Chamber to the Grand Chamber in cases that involve an important issue concerning the interpretation of the Convention, or in cases whose resolution would amount to a potential departure from the Court’s existing case-law.


Krista Oinonen, Director, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, Agent of the Finnish Government at the European Court of Human Rights, tel. +358 295 351 172

Mia Spolander, Legal Counsellor, Unit for Human Rights Courts and Conventions, tel. +358 295 350 666

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