Human Rights and the Council of Europe

Among the various tasks of the Council of Europe, the protection of the human rights calls for special attention. The organization’s most important document regarding this topic is The European Convention on Human Rights. It provides a list of guaranteed rights such as the prohibition of torture, slavery and forced labour, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, respect for private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and a prohibition against discrimination. The Convention requires the countries to grant these rights and freedoms to anyone within their jurisdiction and not just their own nationals.

If anybody believes that their rights or freedoms have been directly violated, they can apply to the European Court of Human Rights for a hearing. Once registered with the Court, the case is assigned to a judge rapporteur, who can make a final decision which is obligatory for the member states.

The European Council guarantees social and economic human rights with the European Social Charter. The rights guaranteed by the Charter concern all individuals in their everyday lives such as the right to housing, health, education, employment, legal and social protection, free movement of persons and non-discrimination. The European Committee of Social Rights ascertains whether countries have honoured the provisions set out in the Charter.

The Council also created a convention to prevent torture (European Convention for the Prevention of Torture) and another document protecting nationalities (European Convention on Nationality). Fighting against discrimination and xenophobia is also an important part in the Council’s work, which is coordinated by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. The Council of Europe protects women’s rights and gender equality as well.

To raise awareness on human rights issues and to provide the suitable education in this field the Council created the independent and impartial institution of The Commissioner for Human Rights in 1999. The Commissioner cooperates with other international organizations by providing recommendations and analyses, and supports human rights institutions.

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