Ukrainian stamp, commemorating 60 years of European Convention on Human Rights
The European Convention on Human Rights has played an important role in the development and awareness of Human Rights in Europe.
The development of a regional system of human rights protection operating across Europe can be seen as a direct response to twin concerns. First, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the convention, drawing on the inspiration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be seen as part of a wider response of the Allied Powers in delivering a human rights agenda through which it was believed that the most serious human rights violations which had occurred during the Second World War could be avoided in the future. Second, the Convention was a response to the growth of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and designed to protect the member states of the Council of Europe from communist subversion. This, in part, explains the constant references to values and principles that are "necessary in a democratic society" throughout the Convention, despite the fact that such principles are not in any way defined within the convention itself.
From 7 to 10 May 1948 with the attendance of politicians (such as Winston Churchill, François Mitterrand and Konrad Adenauer), civil society representatives, academics, business leaders, trade unionist and religious leader was organised gathering-The "Congress of Europe" in Hague. At the end of Congress the declaration and following pledge was issued which demonstrated the initial seeds of modern European institutes, including ECHR. The second and third Articles of Pledge stated: We desire a Charter of Human Rights guaranteeing liberty of thought, assembly and expression as well as right to form a political opposition. We desire a Court of Justice with adequate sanctions for the implementation of this Charter.
The Convention was drafted by the Council of Europe after the Second World War in response to a call issued by Europeans from all walks of life who had gathered at the Hague Congress. Over 100 parliamentarians from the twelve member states of the Council of Europe gathered in Strasbourg in the summer of 1949 for the first ever meeting of the Council's Consultative Assembly to draft a "charter of human rights" and to establish a court to enforce it. British MP and lawyer Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, the Chair of the Assembly's Committee on Legal and Administrative Questions, was one of its leading members and guided the drafting of the Convention. As a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, he had seen first-hand how international justice could be effectively applied. With his help, the French former minister and Resistance fighter Pierre-Henri Teitgen submitted a report to the Assembly proposing a list of rights to be protected, selecting a number from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights just agreed to in New York, and defining how the enforcing judicial mechanism might operate. After extensive debates, the Assembly sent its final proposal to the Council's Committee of Ministers, which convened a group of experts to draft the Convention itself.
The Convention was designed to incorporate a traditional civil liberties approach to securing "effective political democracy", from the strongest traditions in the United Kingdom, France and other member states of the fledgling Council of Europe, as said by Guido Raimondi, President of European Court of Human Rights:
The European system of protection of human rights with its Court would be inconceivable untied from democracy. In fact we have a bond that is not only regional or geographic: a State cannot be party to the European Convention on Human Rights if it is not a member of the Council of Europe; it cannot be a member State of the Council of Europe if it does not respect pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights. So a non-democratic State could not participate in the ECHR system: the protection of democracy goes hand in hand with the protection of rights.
The Convention was opened for signature on 4 November 1950 in Rome. It was ratified and entered into force on 3 September 1953. It is overseen and enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and the Council of Europe. Until procedural reforms in the late 1990s, the Convention was also overseen by a European Commission on Human Rights.