What is the European Convention on Human Rights?

Published: 19 April 2017

Last updated: 19 April 2017

What countries does this apply to?

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales

The European Convention

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protects the human rights of people in countries that belong to the Council of Europe.

All 47 Member States of the Council, including the UK, have signed the Convention. Its full title is the ‘Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’.

The Convention consists of numbered ‘articles’ protecting basic human rights. The UK made these rights part of its domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998.

What is the Council of Europe? 

Formed in 1949, the Council of Europe is completely separate from the European Union and much larger, with 46 members compared to the EU’s 28. The UK became a Council member 24 years before it joined the EU. The UK’s membership of the Council has been unaffected by leaving the EU.

How the Convention came about

The Council of Europe was founded after the Second World War to protect human rights and the rule of law, and to promote democracy. The Member States’ first task was to draw up a treaty to secure basic rights for anyone within their borders, including their own citizens and people of other nationalities.

Originally proposed by Winston Churchill and drafted mainly by British lawyers, the Convention was based on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was signed in Rome in 1950 and came into force in 1953.

The European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights applies and protects the rights and guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

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