European Court: procedure and practice » interim measures

Another opportunity for applicants to obtain immediate action from the Court is a request for interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, pursuant to which, the Court may, at the request of a party or of any other person concerned, or of its own motion, indicate to the parties to perform certain actions or to withhold from any actions, if it necessary for the proper conduct of the proceedings (e.g., to provide an applicant with medical treatment, to suspend his or her deportation or extradition, to allow an applicant to see a lawyer, etc.). Interim measures are usually closely related to the subject matter of a case, but their application is not prejudice to the Court’s subsequent findings as to admissibility or merits of the case. By virtue of Articles 34 and 38 of the Convention the states shall abide to any interim measures indicated by the Court. A request for interim measures can be lodged at any stage of proceedings and even before the actual submission of the application form. Requests for interim measures are examined by the Court in an urgent manner. A refusal to grant a request is not subject to appeal. Normally interim measures are applied for the entire course of proceedings in a case. They may however be applied for a specific term and the Court is able to lift them at any moment when, in the light of the parties’ submissions, they are not considered necessary any more. The main purpose of the interim measures under Rule 39 is to preserve the subject matter of a case so as to ensure the effectiveness of an applicant’s complaint. Interim measures are only applied in exceptional cases, when the Court considers that an applicant faces a real risk of serious, irreversible harm if the measure is not applied. Requests shall be made in strict compliance with the relevant procedural rules. They should state reasons and specify particular grounds necessitating the application of interim measures, as well as to contain reference to the allegedly violated Convention provisions and be accompanied with all relevant documents. Application of interim measures is rare and exceptional and mostly take place in cases concerning Articles 2 (the right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture) of the Convention, usually in the cases concerning expulsion or extradition to a country where an applicant faces certain risks to his life and health, or lack of necessary medical treatment in detention. However, they can be in principle applied in other cases, for example concerning the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the Convention) and the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 of the Convention). Thus, for example in a recent case of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company LTD and Others v. Georgia (currently pending before the Court), concerning a civil litigation between private parties, the Court has indicated the Respondent Government to suspend enforcement of a judgment concerning ownership of a broadcasting company.

However, the main and the most certain way to speed up the examination of a complaint is to provide the Court with a proper and clear statement of facts and complaints in the application form, so as to make its processing easy for the Registry of the Court.