The European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) is a European semantic web standard developed to facilitate the correct and unequivocal citation of judgments of European and national courts, thus improving cross-border accessibility of case law.
ECLI is implemented by the European Union Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Patent Office and (voluntary) in EU Member States.
The decision on the implementation of the ECLI has been taken by the Council of the European Union in December 2010. Within these ‘Council Conclusions’ also a set of fifteen metadata has been decided upon to improve searchability of published judicial decisions.
The European Case Law Identifier is a uniform identifier that has the same recognizable format for all Member States and EU courts. It is composed of five, mandatory, elements:
- ‘ECLI’: to label the identifier as being a European Case Law Identifier;
- the country code;
- the code of the court that rendered the judgment;
- the year the judgment was rendered;
- an ordinal number, up to 25 alphanumeric characters, in a format that is decided upon by each Member State. Dots are allowed, but no other punctuation marks.
All elements are separated by a colon.
An example of an ECLI is:
ECLI:NL:HR:2015:472, which is the published decision 472 of the Supreme Court (‘HR’) of the Netherlands (‘NL’) from the year 2015.
Detailed information on the ECLI standard and its implementation in the individual EU Member States is published on the e-Justice Portal.
The portal also offers ECLI Search Engine, a free service provided by the European Commission that allows decisions of European and national courts with an assigned ECLI identifier to be searched for when the relevant courts and/or Member States have established the necessary technical interconnection with the e-Justice Portal.