European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights is a binding international agreement that protects the political and fundamental civil rights of human beings and their basic freedoms. The Convention was drafted in 1950 by the Council of Europe, and came into force on the 3rd of September 1953. In 1951, the ECHR was not yet part of the British Legal System. In 1997, the Labour government introduced a bill into Parliament to incorporate the ECHR – creating The Human Rights Bill. It was only in November 1998 that the ECHR became part of British law.
This entitled each person to the right of individual petition to the British courts, should they feel that any right in the Convention had been violated. Unlike the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the UN in 1948), the ECHR has been adopted by the Council of Europe and has been sanctioned by many countries. Articles within the European Convention on Human Rights The ECHR is divided into three sections, consisting of fifty-nine articles – and a further thirteen protocols (European Court of Human Rights – echr. coe. int website). Below I have highlighted some articles from the three sections.
Section 1 is concerned with the “Rights and Freedoms” of humans. This includes article 2 – the right to life – which is to be protected by law, binding all the signatory countries to ensure that every human will not be “deprived of his life intentionally” and to defend each individual from unlawful violence. Section 1 also enforces the prohibition of such acts including torture, slavery and forced labour. Article 5 emphasizes the right of freedom and security of every individual (The European Convention on Human Rights (Jacobs and White), 2002).
Article 6 states the right to a fair trial; even those charged with a criminal offence are entitled to “minimum rights”. Article 8 focuses on the right of privacy and family respect of every person. Article 9 addresses each individual’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. With this right, we all have the freedom to change our religion or beliefs. Which leads to article 10, entitling each individual to freedom of expression. Article 12 gives the right to both men and women of “marriageable age” to have the right to marry and have a family.
They must however follow the national laws that govern the exercise of this right. Article 18 ensures that these rules of Convention can only be used for the specific purpose as defined in all articles. Section 2 (the largest section of the ECHR) focuses entirely on the European Court of Human Rights. This includes rules regarding the number of judges, the criteria for office, the competence of both single judges and of committees, and the jurisdiction of the Court. Section 3 encompasses all miscellaneous provisions (article 52 to 59). Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 (which is also known as the Act or HRA) is an act of parliament that was instated in 1998, on the 9th of November – receiving Royal concurrence. However it was two years later, on the 2nd of October in 2000 that the act actually came into force. The major purpose of the act was to provide a solution to the breach of human rights issues in the UK, without the need of going to Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights. It works as a mechanism to implement the European Convention on Human Rights, which was enforced in other European countries well before the United Kingdom.
HRA greatly facilitates the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the UK, in order to provide rights to the citizens of the country. Sections of the Human Rights Act 1998 There are 22 sections that form the Human Rights Act 1998. Below I have highlighted sections 1 to 4. Section 1 of HRA focuses on the enforcement of rights (that are given in the ECHR) in the judiciary and law system of the UK. Section 2 focuses on the interpretation of the Human Rights Act. Under section 2 of HRA the UK courts are directed to take the decision of European courts when solving a case of human right violation.
It must be noted that the UK courts are not obliged to follow European decision, however it is mandatory for them to follow the HRA in regards to human rights issues. Section 3 focuses on the interpretation of the laws, and requires courts to wholly understand the primary and subordinate legislations of the ECHR; the focus on interpretation is to ensure compatibility with the ECHR. Under this section the courts are required to read in, read out and read down to fully interpret the statutory clauses in the act (Keenan & Riches’ Business Law, 2011) . Section 4 of the HRA describes the courts permission to declare an issue ‘incompatible’.
If a law cannot be interpreted to make it comply with human rights, incompatibility is declared. Judges do not have the right to overturn primary legislation in the UK if they find that it is not compatible with human rights, however they are able to overturn secondary legislation. The Protection of Human Rights Act 1998 The Act also hinders any public authorities (including the entire public sector – even courts) of performing actions that violate the Conventions rights. Should any public authority violate any right of an individual, the court’s decision will be in favor of the claimant.
However, violation of human rights from a member of a public authority can be justified if the violation occurred under certain circumstances or as a result of the mandatory obligations imposed by the Westminster primary legislation. The court retains the right to declare any action incompatible if it cannot be proved under the HRA 1998. Implementation of the ECHR The United Kingdom has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. However, its effectiveness depends mainly on the extent of its implementation by the courts. This is where the Human Rights Act comes in.
The key objective of the HRA is to achieve maximum compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights; giving further effect to the ECHR. The Human Rights Act came into force on the 2nd of October 2000. Since then, it has enforced the Convention’s rights into the UK courts. Looking at how the HRA is set out (individual sections) I believe that the HRA has implemented the ECHR to a great extent. My reasoning for this lies predominantly in Section 3 of the HRA, where interpretation of the laws requires courts to thoroughly comprehend the legislations in the ECHR and to fully interpret the statutory clauses.
This ensures that the laws are well understood, which is crucial when dealing with human rights. Sections 2 and 4 also allow the judges to retain sufficient control in order to create a more effective and independent legal system (without the need to constantly go back to Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights). This has made the process much quicker and more effective; it has also given UK citizens a clear legal statement of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms.
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