To mark Human Rights Day (10 December), the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and the President of the Organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly, Liliane Maury Pasquier, have issued a joint statement looking forward to the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights in 2020:
“Following in the footsteps of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights was opened for signature on 4 November 1950.
The Convention has spread across the continent over the last 70 years, now protecting the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of more than 830 million people across 47 countries.
Thanks to the Convention, overseen by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Europe has the strongest system of international human rights protection anywhere in the world. This is something we can all be proud of.
More than 20,000 judgments from the Court, implemented by the Council of Europe member states, have changed ordinary people’s lives for the better, in many different ways, across the whole continent.
Henriette Siliadin’s case is just one of many examples of how lives have changed and situations improved. Mrs Siliadin was kept in a position of domestic servitude or slavery for five years. The European Court of Human Rights found that, according to French law at the time, keeping a person in domestic servitude or slavery was not against the law. Servitude, forced labour and slavery all became criminal offences in France. The judgment of the Strasbourg court led to more legal change to properly protect people in similar situations. Human trafficking was criminalised in France.
The Convention has also brought about many positive changes when applied domestically by national authorities, as well as helping to raise human rights standards around the world.
However, we must never take these achievements for granted or they may disappear. The fight for our rights is on-going and there is still much work to be done.
In 2019, a 10-year reform process came to an end. The backlog of pending cases at the Court has been more than halved and significant improvements have been made to the execution of judgments.
Nevertheless, some 60,000 applications are still waiting to be assessed and more than 5,000 judgments have yet to be fully implemented.
These numbers remain too high and require coordinated efforts between the Council of Europe, the Court and the member states to make sure that justice is done and that systemic problems are tackled to avoid repeated violations.
We also need to work towards making sure that the Convention effectively protects people in every corner of the continent, including unresolved conflict zones, and in all circumstances.
The European Union’s accession to the Convention, re-launched in 2019, will be a very welcome step forward in this respect, opening a new chapter in the Convention’s long and distinguished history.”