Using HUDOC – a basic guide to searching for judgments from the European Court of Human Rights

HUDOC is the database of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). If you know the name of the case you wish to read, it is often quickest simply to run a Google search – you will often have to use “[case name] HUDOC” in order to get a result from HUDOC and not from other sources – but there are also a number of useful ways of searching HUDOC if you are beginning research or searching for new cases.

How wide you wish your search to be, how many sources there are, and any constraints on your search will often determine the best way to approach the resource. On the HUDOC home page are a number of different filters to begin searching, and it would be impractical to go through them all. The best way of learning to search HUDOC is simply to play around with it. But there are some basics which will make your research in HUDOC much easier.

  • Language filters

Judgments from the ECtHR are available in a variety of languages, predominantly English and French. Being monolingual, I always begin any search by selecting the English language filter – cases not available in English are, unfortunately, not going to help my research:

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More than one language filter can be selected. Each time a filter is selected the list of cases will update itself automatically.

  • Article filters

As with language, it is also possible to filter by the Article of the European Convention that you are interested in:

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Clicking on ‘More’ will bring up all of the possible filters:

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For example, here is the list of cases where “English” and all of the “Article 4” filters are selected:

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  • Other filters

There are a number of other filters under the left hand sidebar “Narrow Your Search”. These include by the court giving the judgment, by whether there was a violation found or not and by the country defending the case. All of these may be more or less important depending on the nature of your research. Language and Article are likely be the two filters you most frequently use, however.

  • “Sort by”

In the top right hand corner is a drop down menu for how cases are sorted:

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Relevance is likely to be the most useful search for general research, but other options may be helpful. For example, if you know that domestic law fundamentally changed after a certain date, cases brought under the old law may not be relevant, so Sort by: -> Date (newest) might be a more helpful option.

  • Advanced search

Clicking the “Advanced Search” link in the top right hand corner brings up a number of further options to use alongside, or instead of, the filters:

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There are small grey question marks next to each field, and hovering over these will bring up further information on what each field searches for. It’s worth becoming familiar with this before beginning research, as this is likely to provide the most focussed searches.

For any questions on how to use HUDOC, the best place to start is with their FAQs. But a knowledge of basic filters and searches should be enough to find relevant ECtHR judgments within HUDOC for your research.