Informations and abstract
Keywords: European Court of Human Rights; admissibility; vulnerability; cross-fertilisation; evolutive interpretation; access to justice; right to individual application; substantive equality.
The legal framework governing proceedings before the ECtHR does not deal with cases in which victims of human rights violations are not de jure and/or de facto capable of lodging applications with the Court. In the effort of overcoming such a procedural lacuna, the Court has established a test that, taking into consideration the extreme vulnerability of the victims (such as minors and persons with disabilities) and the seriousness of the alleged violations, allows NGOs to apply as their ‘de facto representatives’, provided that some other conditions are fulfilled. The Court’s approach, however, has not been always consistent and does not guarantee predictability and legal certainty. Moreover, some of the conditions (in particular, the recognition of the alleged de facto representative’s locus standi in domestic proceedings) appear unjustified and raise serious questions of conformity with the ECtHR’s case-law. The present contribution examines the Court’s approach and proposes some interpretative correctives in the light of the principle of substantive equality in the access to (international) justice, also with the aim of harmonizing the ECHR system with other universal and regional human rights systems.