to inform public officials about the State's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights

  • The obligation to respect human rights

    The obligation to respect human rights

    The member States' basic obligation is to "secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention" (which includes, for those States Party to...

  • Right to life

    Right to life

    Paragraph 1 of Article 2 says: "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No-one shall be deprived of his life intentionally…". There follows an exception for the death penalty, which is...

  • Prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment

    Prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment

    Article 3 simply states that "No-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment". It is an absolute right. Unusually among the Convention provisions, there...

  • Prohibition of slavery, servitude and forced labour

    Prohibition of slavery, servitude and forced labour

    "Slavery" means "the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the rights of ownership are exercised". In a case where a young girl brought in from her native...

  • Right to liberty and security

    Right to liberty and security

    The right not to be deprived of personal liberty without lawful cause is one of the keystones of the Convention system. So Article 5 strongly asserts a presumption in favour of liberty at the...

  • Right to a fair trial

    Right to a fair trial

    The key provision of Article 6, in the first sentence of paragraph 1, is that "In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled...

  • Articles 8-11

    Articles 8-11

    These four articles, respectively on respect for private and family life; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression; and freedom of assembly and association have several...

  • Right to respect for private and family life

    Right to respect for private and family life

    Under paragraph 1, everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and correspondence. All these terms have been given an expansive interpretation by the Court, going...

  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

    Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

    Paragraph 1 is in two parts: an unqualified right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which includes the freedom to change one's religion or belief; a qualified right to manifest one's...

  • Freedom of expression

    Freedom of expression

    Paragraph 1 states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by...

  • Freedom of assembly and association

    Freedom of assembly and association

    Article 11 guarantees two rights to act collectively with others. Freedom of assembly includes public or private meetings, marches, processions, demonstrations and sit-ins. The purpose may be...

  • Right to marry

    Right to marry

    Article 12 says: "Men and women have the right to marry and to found a family according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right". This only applies to marriage, not to...

  • Right to an effective remedy

    Right to an effective remedy

    Article 13 requires the provision of effective national remedies for the breach of a Convention right. Claims under this Article will usually involve the Court examining the domestic legal regime...

  • Prohibition of discrimination

    Prohibition of discrimination

    Article 14 requires that "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion,...

  • Right of individual application to the European Court of Human Rights

    Right of individual application to the European Court of Human Rights

    This is a procedural provision guaranteeing the right of any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation of their rights under the...

  • Protocol No. 1 to the Convention

    Protocol No. 1 to the Convention

    Protection of property (Article 1) This article lays down a general rule followed by two specific rules to protect the right to property. General rule: "Every natural or legal person is entitled to...

  • Protocol No. 4 to the Convention

    Protocol No. 4 to the Convention

    Prohibition of imprisonment for debt (Article 1) "No-one shall be deprived of his liberty merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation". The "merely" clause is important:...

  • Protocol No. 7 to the Convention

    Protocol No. 7 to the Convention

    Procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens (Article 1) This guarantees that an individual non-national lawfully resident in the territory of a State shall not be expelled except by a...

This toolkit aims to provide officials of the States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Convention") with information and practical guidance to equip them to respect the Convention rights of the people they deal with, fulfil the State's Convention obligations and so, as far as possible, avoid breaches of the Convention.

Who this toolkit is for?

The toolkit is primarily for officials working in the justice system and for those responsible for law enforcement or for the deprivation of a person's liberty. Specifically, that will nclude (but not be limited to) police, prison officers, immigration officers and workers in secure psychiatric institutions or other institutions providing care to vulnerable persons.

More widely, the toolkit is also for any official who interacts with the public in ways which raise potential issues of Convention rights, for instance social workers, registrars and licensing authority officials.

It is not designed for judges, lawyers or senior civil servants, but for those "at the sharp end". It assumes no prior legal knowledge.

The toolkit contains, in particular:

  • A guide to the rights conferred by the Convention and its Protocols and to the corresponding obligations of the State, following the order in which the provisions appear. Those provisions which most often arise in the work of the officials for whom this toolkit has been written are covered in much greater detail than those which rarely arise. The toolkit does not aim to cover all potential issues, as a legal textbook would; it concentrates selectively on the most significant and frequently encountered ones.
  • Questions and checklists highlighting points to consider, to help officials decide whether a potential issue under the Convention arises.

The Convention and how it works

The Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (to give the Convention its official title) is an international treaty between the States (currently 47) members of the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Union). The Council of Europe was set up after the Second World War as an international organisation for the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Convention was adopted in 1950. States become bound to abide by the obligations of the Convention when they become party to it by ratification. All the member States have ratified the Convention.

There are a number of optional Protocols to the Convention, which supplement its provisions by adding to the substantive rights guaranteed by the Convention. Member States may choose whether to accept the optional Protocols by ratifying them, and not all States have accepted all the optional Protocols. You should check which of the optional Protocols have been ratified by your State on the Council of Europe Treaty Office website.

Please note: We invite you to send us any suggestions that may improve the content or the presentation of this website. Please feel free to fill in this information on the contact form provided for this purpose.