The European Court on Human Rights is an international court tasked with the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (an international treaty under which 47 member states of the Council of Europe commit to secure fundamental civil and political rights).
The role of the Court is to ensure that states respect the rights and guarantees set out in the Convention. It does this by examining complaints (known as “applications”) lodged by individuals or, sometimes, by states. Where it concludes that a member state has breached one or more of these rights and guarantees, the Court delivers a judgment finding a violation. Judgments are binding: the countries concerned are under an obligation to comply with them.
Given the broad nature of the European Convention of Human Rights, the ECHR has also been rulling on cases concerning the online application of human rights. Issues covered in such cases include: data protection and retention issues relevant to the Internet, freedom of expression online, intellectual property rights in the digital environment, access to information, and obligations of states to combat criminal and illegal activities. An overview of the ECHR case-law on matters related to the Internet can be found in the report Internet: case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.