The European Court of Human Rights, the ultimate guardian of fundamental rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is instituted by Article 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights which lists the human rights commitments entered into by the member states of the Council of Europe. The Court ensures that these obligations are fulfilled. It intervenes when a petitioner has exhausted all internal means of legal recourse within a State. This petitioner can be a natural person, a non-governmental organisation, a group of individuals or even a State. Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December 2009, the European Union has been able to accede to the ECHR and the European Commission has begun negotiations with the Council of Europe to this end.