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European Human Rights : Research Guide


In order to achieve its stated goal, the Council created a normative and institutional system for the guarantee of human rights in Europe. The Council proposed the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the "European Convention"), which was signed on November 4, 1950, and entered into force in 1953. Today, states -- far beyond the original geographical limits -- are party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Comprising almost all the countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, the Convention has succeeded in bringing together a diverse cultural body to agree upon common human rights values.

 For the first time in history, the European Convention on Human Rights has established a supranational institutional system whose avowed aim is the protection and promotion of human rights. The Convention gives individuals, as well as states, the right to petition for redress of human rights violations. Until 1998, both the Commission and the European Court of Human Rights had jurisdiction under the Convention.

The European Convention on Human Rights  is limited to civil and political rights and freedoms. It guarantees, inter alia:

  • the right to life,
  • freedom from torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
  • freedom from slavery or servitude,
  • the right to liberty and security of persons
  • the right to respect for family and private life
  • freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,
  • freedom of expression
  • the right to education to every person (The First Protocol)
  • freedom from imprisonment for debt (The Fourth Protocol)
  • the abolition of capital punishment in times of peace (The Sixth Protocol)
  • due process rights for aliens being expelled (The Seventh Protocol)
  • the equality of the rights and responsibilities of spouses. (The Seventh Protocol)

The Convention's drafting and negotiating addressed various economic and social rights. In 1965, member states to the Council adopted the European Social Charter. The Charter and its additional protocols added many other such economic and social rights, including,

  • the right to social welfare services,
  • the right to equal opportunity and equal treatment in employment without discrimination on the grounds of sex (Additional Protocol)
  • the right of workers to take part in determining and improving their working conditions and working environment (Additional Protocol)
  • the right of the elderly to social protection (Additional Protocol).