Article 34 – Individual applications
The Court may receive applications from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the High Contracting Parties of the rights set forth in the Convention or the protocols thereto. The High Contracting Parties undertake not to hinder in any way the effective exercise of this right.
Article 34 ECHR sets forth criteria for the admissibility of individual applications to the European Court of Human Rights and seeks to ensure that the right to lodge individual applications can be exercised freely.
In the first sentence, requirements which applicants have to meet are laid down. The provision provides that applicants have to claim to be a victim of a violation of rights enshrined in the Convention or one of the protocols to it. Thus, it clarifies that applicants have to be affected by violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. An application cannot be lodged just because someone considers an action of a state or legislation adopted contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The admissibility of applications requires that the person submitting it can substantiate that the conduct in question has impacted him; nobody can have the compliance of a law examined abstractly (no actio popularis).
The first sentence also provides that applications can only be submitted because of actions or omissions by a state which is party to the Convention which (allegedly) violates rights and freedoms enshrined in the ECHR or one of its protocols. These requirements are logically connected to the mandate of the European Court of Human Rights. The Court is commissioned to ensure that the signatory states comply with the Convention (article 19 ECHR). Its jurisdiction extends only to states which have acceded to the Convention and to their obligations under the convention. Consequently, it can only be seized with complaints which are based on an alleged failure of signatory states to meet their obligation to secure the rights and fundamental freedoms entrenched in the ECHR.
The second sentence seeks to ensure that the right to individual application is effective. It provides that states must not pose any obstacles to the filing of applications or impede their submission in any way.