KEY LEGAL INSTRUMENTS

The European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as the European Convention on Human Rights)

This Convention does not allow for discrimination or persecution on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. All 47 member states ratified the Convention.

The protection of the human rights of LGBT persons under the European Convention on Human Rights derives first of all from Article 14, which prohibits any form of discrimination in the exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is a supra-national court established by the European Convention on Human Rights and hears complaints that concerning contracting state that have violated the human rights enshrined in the Convention and its protocols. Complaints can be brought by individuals or other contracting states, and the Court can also issue advisory opinions. The ECHR jurisprudence allows an evolutive, dynamic interpretation of the provisions of the Convention and keeps it in line with present-day conditions. The case-law of the ECHR has been essential in combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, regularly recognising violations of the various articles of the Convention insofar as the human rights of LGBT persons were at stake.

Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

This Convention is the first legally binding international agreement ever which includes protection for lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women The non-discrimination article of the Convention protects these women without discrimination and covers the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, recognising that LBT women are particularly vulnerable to violence, due to multiple discrimination, and require specific measures of protection.

The European Social Charter

The European Social Charter, the natural complement to the European Convention on Human Rights , guarantees social and economic human rights. It was adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996. The 1996 revised European Social Charter, which came into force in 1999, is gradually replacing the initial treaty. The rights guaranteed by the Charter concern all individuals in their daily lives: housing, health, education, employment, legal and social protection, free movement of persons and non-discrimination.

The European Committee of Social Rights, which is the supervisory mechanism guaranteeing respect by the States Parties. addressed the issue in its Conclusions 2008 under Article 12 of the Charter.

There is a general ban of discrimination, including on the ground of sexual orientation. In these conclusions the Committee asked States parties to indicate in the next report whether discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is prohibited and how. In several occasions, the Committee went a bit further when it had specific information. The Committee will examine the issue again in its Conclusions 2012 which are currently under study (to be adopted in December 2012 and be made public in January 2013 at the latest).

The European Committee of Social Rights considered the LGBT issue in one decision on the merits in a collective complaint procedure (International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS) v. Croatia, Complaint No. 45/2007, decision on the merits of 30 March 2009. The case dealt with discriminatory statements in educational material (on health education) where sexual orientation was presented in a negative, distorted manner.

Publications

The 2011 report on "Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe" by the Commissioner for Human Rights, covering all 47 member states and based on the largest socio-legal study ever carried out on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity provides a clear picture of the situation in Europe and constitutes a valuable input to the Council of Europe present work in this field.

The background document to the report, over 300 pages, contains the full results of the study

The Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has also been very active, in regularly addressing the question of homophobia, transphobia, hate speech and intolerance in the various member states. The Commissioner published an Issue Paper on Human Rights and Gender Identity in 2009.

 

The Council of Europe works to uphold human rights, the rule of law and pluralist democracy. The Council of Europe's standards and mechanisms seek to promote and ensure respect for the human rights of every individual. These include equal rights and dignity of all human beings, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.
The Council of Europe has adopted a number of international legal instruments and standards on combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. They illustrate the underlying message of the Organisation, which is that the Council of Europe's standards of tolerance and non-discrimination apply to all European societies, and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is not compatible with these standards.
The publication "Combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity" ( June 2011) provides an accessible and comprehensive compilation of the standards adopted by the Council of Europe. It should serve as a reference for the governments, international institutions, NGOs, media professionals and to all those who are - or should be - professionally or otherwise involved or interested in protecting and promoting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.