If human rights restrictions go unchallenged, this could quickly lead to abuses. Therefore, the possibility to challenge restrictions on human rights is essential to keep state authorities in check, prevent abuses and correct mistakes. The right to an effective remedy is a distinct human right that guarantees the possibility for each person to challenge restrictions on human rights before an independent body, which can verify whether a violation of their human rights has occurred and, if necessary, offer a remedy. This right ensures the effectiveness of human rights. 

note In the context of the right to an effective remedy, the term “remedy” can refer to a  process before an independent authority where potential violations of human rights can be challenged. It can also refer to compensation, a restoration of rights, an apology, or other means of redressing a violation. In the European Union, this right is also sometimes referred to as the principle of “effective judicial protection.”

Requirements for an effective remedy

The legal process to verify whether there has been a violation of human rights has to be effective in law and in practice. This means that it must be accessible and work effectively in practice.

The process must offer the opportunity to examine an applicant’s complaint on its merits before an independent court or other independent body capable of reviewing both the relevant facts and the law. This body must also be able to offer an appropriate preventive or at least compensatory remedy. The procedure for this review must offer minimum guarantees of fairness similar to those required by fair trial rights. For example, the process must be based on equality between the parties and requires a reasoned decision. 

An effective remedy must satisfy these conditions:

  • it must be independent
  • it must be accessible, prompt and offer minimum guarantees of fairness by ensuring conditions which allow an applicant to challenge a decision that restricts their rights (e.g., equality of arms)
  • the complaint must be addressed on its substance
  • it must be capable of directly remedying the situation by granting appropriate relief, i.e., preventing the alleged violation or its continuation, or providing adequate redress for any violation that had already occurred.

Types of remedies

There are many ways to redress a violation of human rights. Most commonly, where a violation of human rights has been recognized by courts or other bodies charged with redressing that violation, they will offer monetary compensation. This is especially true if the violation of your rights has also caused you to lose income, property or otherwise caused monetary loss.

example If a court has recognized that you have been unlawfully detained, and in addition to moral suffering, it has also caused you loss of income, you are entitled to monetary compensation to cover that loss of income.

A remedy may also take other forms in addition to monetary compensation. If the violation of human rights has caused moral suffering, this may be rectified in different forms, such as the restoration of rights or an apology. This is known as non-pecuniary or non-material damage. The type of redress which is most appropriate depends on the gravity of the moral suffering caused and is determined on a case-by-case basis.

example In Latvia, Article 14 of the Law on Compensation for Losses Caused by State Administration Institutions states that non-material damage shall be compensated by restoring the condition which existed before the damage was caused, or, if it is not adequate, possible or is only partially possible, by apologising or paying corresponding compensation.

Effective remedies in Latvia

If your rights have been violated by the decisions or actions of state institutions, you can appeal the decision or complain about the actions to a higher institution or official. In some cases, you can also go directly to the Administrative court.

Read more about administrative proceedings.

Decisions or actions that are taken within a criminal procedure have special appeals procedures laid out in the Criminal Procedure Law.

Read more about criminal proceedings.

If you think that your rights have been violated directly by a provision in the law, you can file an application to the Constitutional Court of Latvia. Bear in mind that the Constitutional Court cannot investigate a potential violation of your rights if you have not first tried to resolve the problem using all the usual complaint mechanisms that are available under Latvian law.

Read more about the Constitutional Court of Latvia.

After having tried to have your human rights violation recognized and remedied on a national level, you can also complain further to international or regional human rights mechanisms such as the European Court of Human Rights or the UN Human Rights Committee.

Read more about human rights institutions.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education