The European Convention on Human Rights was adopted in 1950 by the member states of the Council of Europe (now 47 nations) to help bolster democracy and to prevent the widespread abuses of human rights that had taken place under fascism and which were still widespread under communism.
The Convention contains the following rights: –
Article 1 – binds parties to the Convention to secure the Convention rights.
Article 2 – protects the right to life.
Article 3 – prohibits torture and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Article 4 – prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour
Article 5 – protects the liberty and security of person.
Article 6 – provides a right to a fair trial
Article 7 – prevents punishment for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time of its commission.
Article 8 – protects a person’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence“
Article 9 – protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Article 10 – protects freedom of expression
Article 11 – protects freedom of assembly and association,
Article 12 – protects the right to marry and establish a family.
Article 13 – requires national governments to provide an effective remedy for violations of Convention rights.
Article 14 – prohibits discrimination.
Article 15 – allows countries derogate from some Convention rights in time of “war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”
Article 16 – allows states to restrict the political activity of foreigners.
Article 17 – prevents the use of a Convention right to abolish or limit another Convention right.
Article 18 – provides that any limitations on any Convention right may be used only for the purpose for which they are provided.
There are also fifteen protocols to the Convention some of which alter the way in which the Convention is administered and others provide additional Convention rights. It is up to individual states to decide whether to sign or ratify the protocols.
For instance, protocol 1 provides for a right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions, a right to an education and a right to free and fair elections. Protocol 2 prohibits the imprisonment of people for breach of a contract, provides for free movement within a country and the right of a national to enter his/her country and not to be expelled from it. It also prohibits the collective expulsion of foreigners. Protocol 6 limits the death penalty to times of war and protocol 13 abolishes it altogether. Protocol 7 covers aspects of crime and family life and Protocol 12 contains provisions relating to discrimination.
Interpretation of the Convention rights lies with the European Court of Human Rights which was set up in 1959 and sits in Strasbourg, France. It is composed of judges from the member states of the Council of Europe and rules on applications from individuals, states or organizations claiming that Convention rights have been violated. Decisions of the court are binding on the member states which are required by the treaty establishing the Convention, to change their laws and procedures to comply with decisions of the court. A case can only be brought once all remedies in the member state concerned have been exhausted. Nevertheless, over 10,000 decisions have been made by the court over the last fifty years.