Update: 08.05.2014

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR)

Official Text


The European Convention on Human Rights has been the leading international legal instrument protecting human rights since the 1950s. It was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950 and entered into force on 3 September 1953. The Convention gave effect to certain rights and established the European Court of Human Rights, an international judicial organ, and granted it jurisdiction to find against States that breach their undertakings. 

The Convention secures the right to life, the right to a family life, to a fair trial, freedom of expression, religion and conscience. It also prohibits primarily torture and cruel and degrading treatment and punishment, forced labour and arbitrary detention. 

The Convention is known as a living instrument and is constantly evolving through interpretation by the Court and through the addition of protocols. The protocols either add further rights or amend existing rights. Protocols which add rights can only be binding on the states that have signed and ratified them. To date, 16 additional protocols have been adopted.

A case can be brought to the European Court of Human Rights in two circumstances distinguished by within the Convention. The first is by individual applications lodged by any person, group of individuals, company or NGO with a complaint about a violation of their rights. The second is an application brought by one state against another. However the individual petition is by far the most common mechanism used. 

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