The European Convention on Human Rights originally envisaged two judicial bodies: a court and a commission. Article 19 of the Convention set up the European Commission of Human Rights alongside the European Court of Human Rights.
From 1953 until 1999, the Commission had an intermediary role -- that of shielding the Court from frivolous suits. The Commission would hear cases, then refer its reports to the Court -- the only body with the power to issue a binding legal decision. The Commission also had the discretion to refer its reports to the Committee of Ministers, a political body, which could decide whether the Convention had been violated.