The European Convention on Human Rights is a treaty that was drafted in 1950. Each of the numbered “articles” protects a basic human right. Taken together, they allow people to lead free and dignified lives.

47 states, including the UK, have signed up. That means that the UK commits to protecting the Convention rights. If a person’s rights are being breached, and they can’t get a remedy in the UK through the Human Rights Act, the Convention lets them take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Below are the key articles, with the original text in italics, and a simplified version below.

Article 1

Obligation to respect Human Rights

The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention.

Means you have a right…

– To have your human rights respected by the state

Article 2

Right to life

1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
(a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.

Means you have a right…

– Not to be unlawfully killed by the state

– For the state’s systems to be designed so that they protect life,  including through the criminal law

– For the state to investigate suspicious deaths

– In certain circumstances to require the state to take reasonable steps to prevent a loss of life

 

Article 3

Prohibition of torture

No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Means you have a right…

– Not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way

– For the state’s systems to be designed so that they prevent torture or inhumane and degrading treatment, including through the criminal law

– Not to be deported or extradited if there is a real risk you will be tortured in  state you are going back to

– In certain circumstances to require the state to take steps to prevent others from inflicting torture

 

Article 4

Prohibition of slavery and forced labour

1. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
3. For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:
(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;
(b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;
(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or wellbeing of the community;
(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

Means you have a right…

– For the criminal law to prohibit slavery

– To an investigation into credible suspicions of someone being forced into slavery or servitude

– In certain circumstances to require the state to take measures to protect victims or potential victims of enslavement

 

Article 5

Right to liberty and security

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;
(b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for noncompliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;
(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;
(d) the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority;
(e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants;
(f) the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.
2. Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.
3. Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.
4. Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.
5. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

Means you have a right…

– To speedy access to a court and to be released if your detention is found to be unlawful

– If arrested, to be informed of the reasons for that arrest in a language you understand

– To receive compensation if you are the victim of unlawful arrest or detention

 

Article 6

Right to a fair trial

1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

Means you have a right…

– To get a fair trial in criminal and non-criminal (civil) cases

– To be presumed innocent until proved guilty

– To have adequate time and facilities to prepare your defence

– To choose legal assistance

– To receive free legal assistance if you cannot afford it and it is necessary in the interests of justice

 

Article 7

No punishment without law

1. No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.
2. This Article shall not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which, at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations.

Means you have a right…

– To only be charged with criminal offences which are clear in law

– To not be held guilty of a crime if there was no law against it when you did it.

– Not to receive a harsher penalty than one that was applicable at the time an offence was committed

 

Article 8

Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Means you have a right…

– To privacy, for example of your private correspondence (emails, letters, telephone messages)

– In certain circumstances to make the state take positive steps to protect your privacy or family life

– To respect for your family (especially the interests of children) in immigration and deportation matters

Article 8 is a “qualified right”, which means your right to family life and privacy can lawfully be interfered with if it is in the interests of, for example, national security, public safety or the protection of rights and freedoms of others.

 

Article 9

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Means you have a right…

– To have the law protect your right to hold certain beliefs

– To show commitment to your beliefs through worship and teaching, in private and in public

– Article 9 is a “qualified right”, which means your right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion can lawfully be interfered with if it is in the interests of, for example, public safety or the protection of rights and freedoms of others.

 

Article 10

Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Means you have a right…

– To hold and express opinions

– To receive and share information and ideas

– To express opinions which others might find offensive or shocking

Article 10 is a “qualified right”, which means your right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion can lawfully be interfered with if it is in the interests of, for example, public safety or the protection of rights and freedoms of others.

 

Article 11

Freedom of assembly and association

1. Everyone has a right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

Means you have a right…

– To take part in peaceful protests and demonstrations

– To join with others to achieve a particular goal

– To form trade unions

Article 11 is a “qualified right”, which means your right to free assembly and association can lawfully be interfered with if it is in the interests of, for example, public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime, or the protection of rights and freedoms of others.

Article 12

Right to marry

Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

Means you have a right…

– To marry whom you like (although states remain free to define their own laws on same-sex marriage)

– If you are transgender and have transitioned, to marry someone of the opposite gender.

– To start a family

 

Article 13

Right to an effective remedy

Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.

Means you have a right…

– To get a remedy if you rights have been breached, which can be granted by the state or, if necessary, by the courts

– To expect the government to make it possible for you to get a remedy through the courts if your rights are violated

 

Article 14

Prohibition of discrimination

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Means you have a right…

– To equal treatment in the exercise of your other rights

– To special protection against discrimination on many grounds, including gender, race and sexual orientation

Article 1 of Protocol 1

Protection of property

Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.

Means you have a right…

– To peacefully enjoy your property

– Not to have your possessions taken from you except in certain circumstances

 

Article 2 of Protocol 1

Right to education

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

Means you have a right…

– To access education at existing institutions

– To choose a stream of education, including religious or private education

– To equality in education

 

Article 3 of Protocol 1

Right to free elections

The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.

Means you have a right…

– To vote in elections and have a say in the choice of the government and parliament, subject to some restrictions

– To stand for election

 

The European Convention on Human Rights
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