The heart of the European system of human rights protection is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (also called the European Convention on Human Rights) adopted in 1950 under the auspices of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is distinct from the European Union. Though fundamental rights are essential to European Union law (see below), in the field of human rights the Council of Europe plays the leading role in the region. All 47 states that are members of the Council of Europe are also parties to the Convention.
The Convention created the European Court of Human Rights, which sits in Strasbourg, France. All state parties to the Convention must accept the jurisdiction of the Court to decide cases involving individual complaints. Research on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights should begin with its website, and specifically, with the database of the Court's judgments, called HUDOC. HUDOC provides for full-text searching, plus options to search using additional fields and/or filters such as the name of the applicant, name of the respondent state, application number, and relevant article of the Convention.