The European Convention on Human Rights Act: Implementation Mechanisms and Compliance
KeywordsConvention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
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AbstractThe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), is the ‘essential reference point for the protection of human rights in Europe’. Concluded by the Council of Europe (CoE) on 4 November 1950, the ECHR defines rights and freedoms which the Contracting parties ‘shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction’ under Art 1 of the ECHR, and sets up the mechanisms for controlling Contracting parties’ compliance with the obligation to secure t hese rights and freedoms. Since its entry into force on 3 September 1953, the ECHR has arguably become the single most successful international instrument of human rights protection, as attested by the activity of its Court. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or Court) has ruled in over 20,000 cases on many societal issues such as assisted suicide, domestic slavery, abortion-related questions, adoption by homosexuals, discrimination against Roma, or the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in schools and universities. The geographical scope of the protection under the ECHR, which covers 47 state parties with a combined population of over 800 million people, is another s ign of its prominence, as is the fact that the European Union (EU) is now legally bound to become a party to it under Art 59(2) of the ECHR. All 47 members of the CoE, which include the 28 member sta tes of the EU, are subject to the international supervision of the ECtHR. 5 Also, in accordance with the principle of subsidia rity (ie that compliance with ECHR rights is better ensured at domestic level), the ECHR now forms an integral part of the domestic legal order of all state parties. Despite these achievements, the ECHR system faces a number of challenges which call for further initiat ives in order to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of its enforcement mechanism, the imp rovement of the work and legitimacy of its court in particular.