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Handbook / Guide / Manual

Publication date:22 June 2016

Handbook on European law relating to access to justice

Access to justice is an important element of the rule of law. It enables individuals to protect themselves against infringements of their rights, to remedy civil wrongs, to hold executive power accountable and to defend themselves in criminal proceedings. This handbook summarises the key European legal principles in the area of access to justice, focusing on civil and criminal law.


In partnership with the European Court of Human Rights, FRA will produce a handbook which will highlight and summarise the key European legal and jurisprudential principles in the area of access to justice, in particular those developed under Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Articles 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It will cover the area of access to justice in its widest sense, including judicial as well as non-judicial aspects and encompassing substantive, procedural and institutional issues. This is the fifth joint project between FRA and the Council of Europe. It builds on the methodology followed in previous joint projects which enabled the publication of Handbooks on European law in the field of non-discrimination (2011), European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration (2013), European data protection law (2014) and European law relating to the rights of the child (2015).


Access to justice is a core fundamental right according to both the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (Article 47) and a human right under the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 6 and 13). Access to justice enables victims of human rights violations to effectively enforce their rights and remedy damage suffered, irrespective of the nature of the right - civil and political as well as economic and social. FRA research shows that access to justice is problematic in a number of EU Member States due to several factors, including insufficient knowledge about the different avenues available to access justice. The handbook will contribute to mitigating this problem by raising awareness and knowledge amongst judges and legal practitioners involved in litigation, as well as relevant intermediaries such as non-governmental organisations and other bodies involved in assisting victims in accessing justice.


The handbook will provide an accessible summary and analysis (in selected EU languages) of the relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights supplemented by – where available – national jurisprudence, on key topics in the area of access to justice. The project will complement other FRA handbooks that deal with access to justice in a more specific thematic context and in particular two FRA access to justice reports published in 2011 and 2012. Furthermore, it will contribute to the various on-going or completed projects that FRA has been undertaking in the area of access to justice, including the online tool Clarity - where to turn for help? or the Victim support services project. The handbook will be developed in English in 2016 and translated into a number of EU languages. It will also be available in an online version.