The ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) is an international convention initially drafted and signed in 1950 before being enforced in 1953. The ECHR was created with the primary objectives of protecting human rights and political freedoms in Europe (Greer 2006). Currently, the ECHR is recognized and ratified by forty-seven countries in Europe. After the ECHR, the ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights) was established to enforce the convention. All human rights violations of the member countries are monitored by the court. The convention is made into three parts covering the rights and freedoms, the ECtHR, and miscellaneous provisions. This essay aims to expound on the characteristics and purpose of the ECHR. The second part of the paper will evaluate and discuss how the ECHR has been incorporated within the United Kingdom as law through the 1998 Human Rights Act.
The Council of Europe
It is the largest human rights organization in Europe, catering for the rights of more than eight hundred and twenty million people from its forty-seven member states. It is not to be confused with the council of the European Union (with 28-member states). The council of Europe lacks the ability to make binding laws, but it can enforce the implementation of international agreements between the member states. The council comprises of two primary bodies; the Parliamentary Assembly (comprises of representative members of the assembly from all countries) and the Committee of Ministers (Comprises of the representative foreign ministers) (Greer 2006). The third body is the Congress, and the COE’s headquarters are in Strasbourg, France.
The most recognized institution of the COE is the ECtHR, which is charged with enforcing the ECHR. The core objective of the COE is ensuring that the rule of law, democracy, and human rights are upheld in Europe. It achieves its mandate through the review and amendment of the ECHR as well as through its implementation arm. The ECtHR is charged with hearing and determining cases where there is an alleged breach of one or more human rights provisions outlined within the ECHR (Cameron 2014). The court is flexible in the laws allowing for individuals, interest groups, and governments to file applications to be reviewed. Other than determining cases, the court also acts as an advisor on how the ECHR should be interpreted.
The ECtHR comprises of a panel of forty-seven judges (each representing a member state). The judges are elected by the majority votes in the Parliamentary Assembly for a non-renewable term of nine years. Each member state nominates three candidates to be vetted and selected by the assembly — the Committee of Minister’s cats as the oversight body for the ECtHR (Cameron 2014).
The conception of the ECHR can be traced back to 1948 after the United Nation’s UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Winston Churchill is seen to have begun the idea through his push for a charter of human rights “gathered by freedom and sustained by law” (Mowbray 2004). However, before diving into the analysis of the nature of the human rights provided for in the convention, it is important to understand the types of rights. There are three types of rights presented through the convention; absolute, limited, and qualified rights. A human right is a legal entitlement to possess a thing or to engage in a variety of actions.
An absolute right is one which is fully enforceable as penned within the convention. These types of rights cannot be infringed, limited, or amended in any way. As an example, the ECHR has the right to a fair trial for all accused persons, and this right cannot be limited since it is the cornerstone of justice through transparency. The limited rights are seen to have provisions where they can be restricted. For example, the right to liberty and security extended to all people is limited on various occasions. In the lawful detention of a person for failing to comply with a court order (Echr.coe.int, 2010). Qualified rights are those that can be interfered with during special situations to protect the rights or interests of the public. As an example, the right to respect for private and family life can be interfered with under the guise of national security or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others such as minors (Echr.coe.int, 2010).
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