The concept of victim


Under Article 34, only applicants who consider themselves victims of breaches of the Convention can complain to the Court.


The term ‘victim’ is interpreted autonomously and irrespective of domestic rules such as those concerning interest in or capacity to take action and does not require the existence of injury


An applicant cannot claim to be a victim in cases where she/he is partially responsible for the alleged violation.


The act or omission in issue must directly affect the applicant.


Sometimes the Court has accepted application from ‘potential’ victims, persons who could not complain of direct violations but suspicion or conjecture are not enough to establish victim status.


For indirect victims, when there is a personal and specific link between the direct victim and the applicant, the Court may accept an individual application from an indirect victim (for example the victim’s wife; the dead man’s nephew; the mother of a man who disappeared; the widow of a defendant, even shareholders in a company claiming to be victims of a violation of their company’s rights in exceptional circumstances…).


The victim’s death does not automatically mean that the case is struck out of the Court’s list. It is for persons with claims through the deceased to decide whether to pursue the case or not and up to the Court to assess whether it is appropriate to continue its examination for the purpose of protecting human rights. It is vital, however, that grievances are considered transferable.


The applicant may lose her/his victim status and must be able to justify his or her status as a victim throughout the proceedings. Therefore, many cases are struck out of the list because the applicant ceases to have victim status (for example when a domestic settlement of the case is set for after the admissibility decision…).


Nevertheless, the mitigation of a sentence or the adoption of a measure in favor of the applicant will only remove victim status if it is accompanied by explicit or substantial recognition of the violation, followed by adequate redress.


Victim status may therefore depend on the size of indemnity granted by the domestic courts and the effectiveness of the remedy affording the award.