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“Meždunarodnoe pravosudie” (International Justice) Journal

№4 (28) 2018

The evolution of ideas of access to justice in the legal studies and practice of the European Court of Human Rights

Evgeniy Fokin is a  Research fellow, Institute of Legislation and Comparative Law under the Government of the Russian Federation; Postgraduate student, Department of judicial power at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia (e-mail:


The problem of access to justice continues to be relevant both in the practice of the European Court of Human Rights and at the level of national legal regulation. The purpose of this article is to systematize the accumulated theoretical ideas about access to justice and analyze their practical implementation by the ECHR. The study begins with a historical overview of views on access to justice. It is concluded that this problem has been indirectly understood by mankind since the time of Roman law, but systematization and specification were obtained only in the second half of the twentieth century. The article then gives a brief comparative analysis of the concepts of “access to justice”, “the right to access to justice” and “access to court”. This analysis is based, among other things, on Russian legal doctrine. The main part of the article is devoted to the practice of the ECHR. Thus, the analysis of the practice begins with a review of the case of Golder v. the United Kingdom, which became the basis for further positions of the ECHR. It also provides an overview of the dissenting opinions of judges who have not accepted the need to ensure access to justice as an independent element of the right to a fair trial. Further, the article describes the approaches of the ECHR to restrictions on the right of access to justice, compares the legal position of the ECHR, when such restrictions are possible, and when they violate the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention). Finally, considerable attention is paid to the question of what essential features justice should possess for the purposes of the right of access to justice. At the end of the article, a brief overview of the areas where access to justice intersects with other elements of the right to a fair trial is given. The article is based on comparative legal and historical methods of analysis.


access to justice; fair trial; the right to access to justice; the practice of the ECHR; the initiation of proceedings in court; the effectiveness of justice.


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