Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is an international organisation based in Strasbourg which has 47 member countries across Europe. It was set up to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

European Convention on Human Rights

This Convention, properly called the 'Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms', is an international treaty under which the member States of the Council of Europe promise to secure fundamental civil and political rights, not only to their own citizens but also to everyone within their jurisdiction. It was was signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and entered into force on 3 September 1953. The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on 8 March 1951.

The guarantees and prohibitions

The Convention secures in particular:

  • 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 set out in the Convention

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up in 1959. Its task is to ensure that States respect the rights and guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. It does this by examining complaints (known as 'applications') alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the Convention.  These applications can be lodged by individuals or, sometimes, by States. When the Court finds that a member State has violated one or more of these rights and guarantees, it delivers a judgment. Judgments are binding: the countries concerned are under an obligation to comply with them.

The Commission's interventions

The Commission has so far intervened in nine cases before the ECtHR involving issues about housing, immigration, family law, employment issues, the right to a fair trial and other matters. Read on for more information >>

Other Council of Europe Conventions

The Council of Europe has committed to developing a Convention on violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention will provide an international legal framework to ensure effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of these forms of violence, and protection and support for victims and witnesses. The Convention is being produced by an Ad Hoc Committee on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CAHVIO). The Commission is contributing to the discussions through the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, which is represented at CAHVIO. Information about the Convention can be found on the Council of Europe website.


Thanks to the ECtHR website for their helpful guides to the Convention and the ECtHR. For full details, see the ECtHR website:


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