The European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European Convention on Human Rights, was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950 and came into force in 1953. It was the first instrument to give effect to certain of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and make them binding.
The importance of the Convention lies not only in the scope of the fundamental rights it protects, but also in the protection mechanism established in Strasbourg to examine alleged violations and ensure compliance by the States with their undertakings under the Convention. Accordingly, in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights was set up.
In the system as first set up, three institutions were given the task of ensuring compliance with the undertakings given by the Contracting States: the European Commission of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. With the entry into force of Protocol No. 11 on 1 November 1998 the first two institutions were merged into a single Court, to which individual or State applications can be directly made alleging violations of the civil and political rights set forth in the Convention.
Since its adoption in 1950 the Convention has been amended a number of times and supplemented with many rights in addition to those set forth in the original text.
Protocols to the Convention
Protocol No. 15
Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention introduces a reference to the principle of subsidiarity and the doctrine of the margin of appreciation. It also reduces from six to four months the time-limit within which an application may be made to the Court following the date of a final domestic decision.
Protocol No. 15 will enter into force as soon as all the States Parties to the Convention have signed and ratified it.
Protocol No. 15 Italian version
Opinion of the Court (February 2013)
Protocol No. 16
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted Protocol No. 16 to the Convention. This new protocol will allow the highest courts and tribunals of a State Party to request the Court to give advisory opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention or the protocols thereto.
Protocol No. 16 Italian version
Explanatory report on Protocol No. 16 Italian version
Opinion of the Court (May 2013)
Video-Clip on the Convention
The Court has produced a video-clip presenting the main rights and freedoms in the Convention. Aimed at a wide range of viewers, this video-clip is currently available in 38 languages. The Court wishes to encourage initiatives aimed at including this video-clip in civic education programs.Video-clip in English
Which rights are protected by the Convention?
States that have ratified the Convention, also known as “States Parties”, have undertaken to secure and guarantee to everyone within their jurisdiction, not only their nationals, the fundamental civil and political rights defined in the Convention.
The rights and freedoms secured by the Convention include the right to life, the right to a fair hearing, the right to respect for private and family life, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the protection of property.
The Convention prohibits, in particular, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, slavery and forced labour, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms secured by the Convention.
What is a protocol to the Convention?
A protocol to the Convention is a text which adds one or more rights to the original Convention or amends certain of its provisions.
Protocols which add rights to the Convention are binding only on those States that have signed and ratified them; a State that has merely signed a protocol without ratifying it will not be bound by its provisions.
To date, 14 additional protocols have been adopted.
When was the Convention adopted?
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the “European Convention on Human Rights”, was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950; it entered into force on 3 September 1953.
The Convention gave effect to certain of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and established an international judicial body with jurisdiction to find against States that do not fulfil their undertakings.
Does the Convention evolve?
Yes. The Convention evolves especially by means of the interpretation of its provisions by the European Court of Human Rights.
Through its case-law the Court has made the Convention a living instrument; it has thus extended the rights afforded and has applied them to situations that were not foreseeable when the Convention was first adopted.
The Convention has also evolved as and when protocols have added new rights: for example in July 2003, with Protocol No. 13 concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, or in April 2005, with Protocol No. 12 on non-discrimination.