What is the Convention?

The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) 1950 was created by the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Union!). The Council of Europe was set up after the Second World War to protect human rights and the rule of law and to promote democracy across Europe.

What role did the UK play?

The UK played a significant role in creating and writing the ECHR:

  • Winston Churchill called for ‘Human Rights Charter’ in the aftermath of World War II. He spoke about the strength derived from our sense of common values, and the Charter being “guarded by freedom and sustained by law” which ensured that “people owned the government, and not the government the people” (speech at The Hague, 1948).
  • One of the key writers of the ECHR was the British lawyer and Conservative politician David Maxwell Fyfe, who went on to become the UK’s Home Secretary.
  • The UK was one of the first states to sign the ECHR on 4 November 1950.

What commitments do governments make?

Governments that want to join the Council of Europe must sign up to the ECHR and make a legal commitment to protect the ECHR rights of all people within their country. Today the ECHR protects 820 million people in 47 countries, ensuring basic minimum standards for us all.

How is it monitored?

Importantly, the countries that created the ECHR, such as the UK, also set up the European Court of Human Rights to oversee whether Governments are meeting their obligations under the ECHR. Until the Human Rights Act passed in the UK, the only way people could access these rights was to take a case to the European Court.