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Comparative Human Rights, Refugee, & Asylum Law: Human Rights in Europe

European Convention on Human Rights

The fundamental European human rights treaty is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Convention was drafted by the Council of Europe in 1950, and entered into force in 1953. All CoE member states are a party to the Convention, and new members are expected to ratify the Convention. The ECHR established the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as an enforcement body.

Nota bene: The European Convention on Human Rights is not to be confused with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (text adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in order to strengthen human rights protection at international level) or the Charter of Fundamental Rights (European Union text on human rights and fundamental freedoms, adopted in 2000).

Council of Europe
The Council of Europe (CoE) is an international organization, formed in 1949 with the aim to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe. Two human rights institutions within the CoE are primarily tasked with human rights duties.
  • The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the member states.
  • The European Court of Human Rights enforces the European Convention on Human Rights.

Nota bene: The Council of Europe is distinct from the European Union. With 47 member states, the CoE is both older and larger than the EU. The CoE is not to be confused with two EU bodies: the European Council and the Council of the European Union.

The European Union acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights in 2009 with the Treaty of Lisbon, becoming a Contracting Party to the Convention and essentially the 48th member of the Council of Europe. See the ECHR page Accession of the European Union.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights was established by the European Convention on Human Rights. This international court was set up in 1959 to rule on individual or State applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the ECHR.

Nota bene: The ECtHR is not to be confused with the Court of Justice of the European Union (the EU judicial organ, based in Luxembourg) or the International Court of Justice (the judicial organ of the United Nations, based in The Hague).

European Union

Fundamental rights are guaranteed nationally by the constitutions of individual countries and at EU level by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This Charter, in part, reaffirms the rights conferred by the European Convention on Human Rights and aligns EU policy with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

General Sources on Human Rights under the European Union

Related Books in Law Library Catalog

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