Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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Europe and the law

2 Part A The European Convention on Human Rights

2.1 History

The Council of Europe was set up in 1949. It is an intergovernmental organisation (based in Strasbourg, France) set up to protect human rights, promote cultural diversity and to combat social problems such as intolerance. Its creation was seen as a way of achieving a European approach to the protection of certain individual rights. Although presented now as historical events, the horrors of what had taken place in the Second World War were then fresh in the minds of the governments and people, who sought to find a method of preventing such horrors from occurring again. The images and reports they had seen left a lasting impression and a determination that they would not be repeated. Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe states that:

Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms …

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the European Convention on Human Rights) was one of the earliest achievements of the Council of Europe. It was agreed in November 1950 and came into force on 3 September 1953. It was one of the many instruments designed to assist post-war regeneration in Europe and it sought to give protection to individual citizens. That protection came from agreed and accepted rights which reflected the agreed common values. The European Convention on Human Rights expressed those rights. Any state ratifying the ECHR would be bound to uphold them and member states would keep each other in line by mutually enforcing the application of those rights. Member states also have a collective responsibility for ensuring respect for the European Convention on Human Rights. This was possible as the member states ‘have a common heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedom and the rule of law’.

It was thought that the creation of explicit rights and a mechanism for their enforcement would be sufficient to ensure that these rights were observed and that the horrors of the war would not be repeated.

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