Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was signed by the member states of the Council of Europe on 4 November 1950.

Subsequently the Convention has been amended according to various protocols, which have given the Convention more scope and instituted the supranational European Court of Human Rights, with jurisdiction extending to all matters concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention and the protocols thereto.

The Court may receive applications from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation of one of the member states of the rights set forth in the Convention or the protocols.

The member states have undertaken to abide by the final judgments of the Court. Final judgments of the Court are transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and the Committee supervises their execution.

The member states have promised to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention.

An overview of the substantive rights guaranteed by the Convention, as amended by Protocol No. 11:

Right to life
Prohibition of torture
Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
Right to liberty and security
Right to a fair trial
No punishment without law
Right to respect for private and family life
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Freedom of expression
Freedom of assembly and association
Right to marry
Right to and effective remedy
Prohibition of discrimination

Most articles declare a right in principle, and then mention the formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties, which are allowed (subject to the evolving interpretations of the Court).

There are some general clauses concerning these rights:

Derogations in time of emergency
Restriction on political activity of aliens
Prohibition of abuse of rights
Limitation on use of restrictions on rights

Substantive rights added by protocols are:

Protection of property
Right to education
Right to free elections
Prohibition of imprisonment for debt
Freedom of movement
Prohibition of expulsion of nationals
Prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens
Abolition of the death penalty (in peace time)
Procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens
Right of appeal in criminal matters
Compensation for wrongful conviction
Right not to be tried or punished twice
Equality between spouses
General prohibition of discrimination
Abolition of the death penalty

Protocol No. 14, amending the control system of the Convention, has not entered into force, because it is still one ratification short of the 46 ratifications needed.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its control system headed by the European Court of Human Rights try to guarantee the basic human rights for 800 million individuals in Europe.

Ralf Grahn