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Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

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3  The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The ECHR is an international Treaty that is limited to Europe. It contains rights that governments must honour and ensure that their domestic laws respect. The rights must be respected even in circumstances when this may lead to the interests of a minority being upheld against the views of a majority of the population.

A photograph of a signature page of the ECHR.
Figure 3The signature page of the ECHR

One point to note before progressing any further is that the media, students (and sometimes governments) confuse the organisations associated with the Council of Europe (which produced the ECHR, was founded in 1949 and which has 47 members) with the European Union (EU). They are in fact distinct and separate organisations with different aims and objectives. Unfortunately, some of the departments and bodies of the Council of Europe (which was set up to to uphold human rights, democracy, rule of law in Europe and promote European culture) and EU have similar names, such as the Council of Europe or European Commission, and this can lead to confusion. This week covers the ECHR, and references to the Council, Commission or European Court will be to those relating to the ECHR.