The six-month-rule


Article 35 § 1 – Admissibility criteria
"The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law, and within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken."


Under Article 35, the six-month rule is set to promote security of the law and to ensure that cases raising Convention issues are dealt with within a reasonable time, to protect the authorities and other persons concerned from being under uncertainty for a prolonged period of time.


The six-month period runs from the final decision in the process of exhaustion of domestic remedies. Only remedies which are normal and effective can be taken into account and the six-month rule does not require recourse to extraordinary remedies or allow that the running of the six months’ period be postponed on the ground that such remedies have been resorted to.

With respect to complaints concerning the length of proceedings, the time taken to execute a civil court judgment does not fall within the period to be taken into consideration.

Where an applicant is entitled to be served ex officio with a written copy of the final domestic decision, the object and purpose of the rule are best served by counting the six-month period as running from the date of service of the written judgment.

The six-month period may run also from the date on which the applicant's lawyer became aware of the decision completing the exhaustion of the domestic remedies, notwithstanding the fact that the applicant only became aware of the decision later.

Where the domestic law does not provide for service, it is appropriate to take the date the decision was finalised as the starting point, that being when the parties were definitely able to find out its content.


In length of proceedings cases, the end of the period to be taken into consideration is the date on which the final decision was lodged with the court’s registry.


The applicant or his/her lawyer must show due diligence in obtaining a copy of the decision deposited with the court’s registry.


If no domestic remedy is available, the six-months’ time limit in principle starts to run from the date on which the act complained of took place or the date on which the applicant was directly affected by, became aware or could have become aware of, such an act.


However, special considerations could apply in exceptional cases where an applicant avails himself or relies on an apparently existing remedy and only subsequently becomes aware of circumstances which render the remedy ineffective. In thus case, it is appropriate to take as the start of the six-month period the date when he/she first became aware or ought to have become aware of those circumstances.


Where the alleged violation consists of a continuing situation against which no domestic remedy is available, the six-month period runs from the end of this situation


It is not open to the Court to set aside the application of the six-month rule.


But, in order to accept a late introduction of an application, the Court must be convinced of the existence of special circumstances justifying the delay and interrupting or suspending the running of the six-month time-limit.


It is for the Government pleading non-respect for the six-month rule to demonstrate the date at which the applicant became aware of the final decision. It is open to the Court to determine a date for the running of the six-month rule which is at variance with that identified by the respondent Government.


The date of the introduction of an application is the date of the first letter indicating an intention to lodge an application and giving some indication of the nature of the application. The provision of documents from the domestic proceedings is not sufficient to constitute an introduction of all subsequent complaints based on those proceedings. Some indication of the nature of the alleged violation under the Convention is required to introduce a complaint and thereby interrupt the running of the six-month time-limit.


In the absence of explanations of an interval (of at least several days) between the date on which the letter was written and the date on which it was posted, the latter is to be considered the date of introduction of an application.


Where a substantial interval follows before an applicant submits further information about his proposed application or before he returns the application form, the Court may examine the particular circumstances of the case to determine what date should be regarded as the date of introduction with a view to calculating the running of the six-month period.


As regards complaints not included in the initial application, the running of the six-month time limit is not interrupted until the date when the complaint is first submitted to a Convention organ.


Complaints raised outside the six-month time limit can only be examined if they are particular aspects of the initial complaints raised within the time-limit.