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European Human Rights : Research Guide


In a desire to shield themselves from the Nazi horrors of the past and the Soviet fears of the day, the countries of Western Europe agreed to establish a regional Council of Europe. On May 5th, 1949, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of London that established the Council of Europe. Furthermore, in order to create a political and legal environment common to all European countries, the Council of Europe has since 1989 admitted most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and supports their efforts to implement and consolidate reforms accordingly. Currently, the Council of Europe has 47 member states. The Council of Europe is an institution independent of the European Union (EU) and it has functions different from those of the Union. Unlike the Treaties that established the European Union, the Convention's tasks are succinctly explained in its Preamble "to promote the signatories' belief" in "individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law." The Council of Europe should not be confused with the Council of the European Union. Unlike the Council of Europe, the Council of the European Union is the EU's main decision-making body. The Council of Europe's permanent headquarters are in Strasbourg, France. Its main statutory bodies are: the Committee of Ministers, made up of the member States' foreign ministers, and the Parliamentary Assembly, composed of delegations from the member states' parliaments.

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