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The European Convention on Human Rights
- how does it work?


The human rights convention protects the rights of more than 830 million people in Europe.

All 47 Council of Europe member countries have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a treaty designed to protect people’s human rights and basic freedoms.

Governments, parliaments and courts in each country are mainly responsible for upholding the rights set out in the convention.

However, the European Court of Human Rights acts as a safety net. Individuals can bring human rights complaints against any of the 47 member states to the court in Strasbourg after they have used up every possible chance of appeal at the national level.

If the European court finds that the applicant’s human rights have been violated, the country concerned has to provide justice to the individual. It may also have to take steps to make sure that the same thing does not happen again. The actions taken by the national authorities in response to judgments from the court are supervised by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

Alongside this process, the rights contained in the European convention are protected within countries in many different ways. The convention’s principles and the case law of the European court are taken into account every day in judgments issued by national courts, legislation passed by parliaments and decisions made by national authorities. Judgments from the European court are therefore just one way in which human rights are protected in Europe.