Depending on the case, it is possible to turn to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, or so-called treaty bodies of the United Nations in Geneva. The Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Ombudsman may also be approached under particular circumstances.
For more details see:
- National complaints mechanisms
- Non-governmental organisations
- EU complaints mechanisms
- European and international human rights organisations
FRA provides advice to European Union (EU) institutions and EU Member States. It does not have the mandate to deal with individual complaints. However, there are organisations in Member States, and at the European and international level listed below, where people can turn to when their fundamental rights have been violated.
In addition to the list of bodies given below, FRA recommends consulting the European Commission’s web pages, which give advice specifically relating to the EU’s legislation on non-discrimination:
- What you should know about anti-discrimination legislation: Frequently asked questions (pdf 139KB). Also available in French and German.
- What you can do if you have suffered discrimination: Guidance for victims (pdf 135KB). Also available in French and German.
- E-Justice portal – a one-stop-shop for information on national justice systems in 22 languages.
Any more general queries about EU matters may be directed to the Europe Direct response service by calling the toll-free number 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11, from anywhere in the EU, or through the Europe Direct website.
Individuals should submit complaints first to a national body. Each EU Member State has set up bodies specialised to give information on non-discrimination and/or fundamental rights issues. It may be possible that this body has the power to decide on individual complaints, but this should be checked with the body itself. See list of national bodies in each Member State:
EN (pdf 268KB)
EL (pdf 241KB)
EN (pdf 241KB)
DK (pdf 238KB)
EN (pdf 240KB)
DE (pdf 242KB)
EN (pdf 241KB)
LT (pdf 248KB)
While most NGOs do not deal directly with individual complaints, they are a valuable source of information and contacts for those experiencing discrimination on different grounds, or other alleged violations of fundamental rights. If you are searching for an NGO working on an area relevant to you a, useful starting point is the Commission-funded Platform of European Social NGOs (Social Platform) or FRA’s very own Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP).
The Social Platform represents NGOs covering a wide range of social issues at the local, regional, national, and EU levels. The Social Platform lists NGO members covering themes such as child rights, access to healthcare and education. A list of NGOs and the issues they cover can be found on the Social Platform website or the FRP web page. Below are examples of NGOs / umbrella organisations dealing with different types of discrimination:
- Issues related to ageism are tackled by AGE (European Older People’s Platform);
- Prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation is addressed by ILGA Europe (International Lesbian and Gay Association); and Transgender Europe;
- ENAR (European Network Against Racism) deals with racism and xenophobia;
- EDF (European Disability Forum) advocates for the rights of people with disabilities.
- European Women’s Lobby dealing with discrimination against women.
If you find an NGO that deals with the issue that relates to your complaint, you may be able to access information on their website that lists who their members are in your country.
If you feel that your rights have been infringed by a Member State or by the EU institutions themselves, you may wish to contact one of the following bodies. Note that these web pages may appear initially in English. However, there is usually an option on the page to choose a different language:
The European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions: This is available to EU citizens and people resident in an EU Member State. You may make a complaint that is related to an issue of EU interest or responsibility.
The European Ombudsman: This is available to EU citizens and people resident in an EU Member State. You may make a complaint relating to poor or bad administration by a body of the EU.
The European Commission: This is available to anyone who wishes to complain to the Commission that a Member State has failed to comply with EU law.
You may also wish to consult the Council of Europe or the United Nations. Some of the bodies listed below have power to deal with individual complaints, while others may be able to offer you information. More details are available through the web links. Do note that for some of these bodies you will need to satisfy certain requirements before they are able to deal with a complaint, in particular the European Court of Human Rights and the UN’s treaty bodies. The most significant of these is the obligation to attempt to resolve your complaint through mechanisms available at the national level (otherwise known as ‘exhausting’ your ‘local remedies’).
Council of Europe bodies
- European Court of Human Rights: General information for applicants
- European Social Charter and the Committee of Social Rights
- Commissioner for Human Rights
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Advisory Committee
- European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
United Nations & international human rights treaty bodies
The United Nations has two distinct avenues for individual complaints. The Human Rights Council operates ‘special procedures’ allowing an individual to make a complaint to an independent expert holding a mandate either in a relevant theme or relating to a particular State. The ‘special procedures’ are available to individuals anywhere in the world in relation to any State, as long as their complaint falls within an established mandate.
In addition to the ‘special procedures’ a State that is party to a given UN human rights treaty is subject to supervision by the relevant monitoring body. Several treaties provide the possibility – should a state have agreed – of making an individual complaint. Information on making a complaint to the treaty bodies may be found online.