70 years of the European Convention on Human Rights 

The European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950, was the first instrument to crystallise and give binding effect to the rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It lays down absolute rights which can never be breached by the States, such as the right to life or the prohibition of torture, and it protects certain rights and freedoms which can only be restricted by law when necessary in a democratic society, for example the right to liberty and security or the right to respect for private and family life.

A number of rights have been added to the initial text with the adoption of additional protocols, concerning in particular the abolition of the death penalty, the protection of property, the right to free elections or freedom of movement.

 European Convention on Human Rights


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Convention and LGBTI persons

A web conference on the topic A 'Living Instrument' For Everyone: The Role of the European Convention on Human Rights in Advancing Equality for LGBTI Persons took place at the Court on Thursday 8 October 2020.
Owing to the current restrictions the conference was not open to the public.
 Speech by President Robert Spano

Video of the conference:

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European Convention at 70

President Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos took part in an on-line conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, which took place on 5 May 2020 in Norway, in Kristiansand.
Topics included the importance of human rights for pan-European cohesion and peace, current challenges to democracy and protecting freedom of expression in Europe.

 Speech by President Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos

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Human rights for the planet

The Court hosted a web conference on the topic of human rights and environmental protection on Monday 5 October 2020.
Owing to the current restrictions the conference was not open to the public.

 Opening speech by President Robert Spano 
 Opening speech by Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos

Video of the conference:

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The European Convention on Human Rights: Living Instrument at 70


The official opening of the judicial year of the ECHR took place on 31 January 2020. The event included a seminar on the topic The European Convention on Human Rights: living instrument at 70, at which many eminent figures from European judicial circles were present. 

 Proceedings of the seminar
 Seminar background paper

Video of the Seminar:

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Milestones and major achievements

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Convention the Court held a conference on 18 September 2020 entitled The European Convention on Human Rights at 70 - Milestones and major achievements. Leading figures from the judicial world took part in the celebrations, including by video link.
The topics addressed in the first part of the conference were Strengthening the rule of law and access to an independent court and Fostering a democratic form of governance. The roundtable sessions in the second part covered the following subjects: Promoting and ensuring diversity of family life, Meeting challenges of scientific and technological development and Promoting peace and integration among States. The conference was rounded off by a summary of the milestones and major achievements in the Convention’s history.
 Programme of the conference  
 Opening speech by President Robert Spano 
 Speech by Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (in French only) 
 Speech by Jean-Paul Costa (in French only) 
 Speech by Rosario Silva de Lapuerta (in French only) 
 Speech by Georges Ravarani (in French only) 
 Speech by Yonko Grozev 
 Speech by Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen (in French only) 
 Speech by Dean Spielmann (in French only) 
 Speech by Ksenija Turković 
 Speech by Chantal Arens (in French ony) 
 Speech by Siofra O'Leary 
 Speech by Pere Pastor Vilanova (in French only) 
 Speech by Iulia Antoanella Motoc (in French only) 
 Speech by Angelika Nuβberger 
 Closing speech by Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos (in French only)
 Closing speech by President Robert Spano

Video of the Conference: Part 1 - Part 2

Other events, publications and videos

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ECHR Commemorative Book

A Commemorative Book about the Court was recently published to mark the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This work contains many hitherto unpublished photos and recounts the history of the Court in words and images. A copy of the original Convention text has been reproduced for the first time, and this is also the first publication to contain pictures of all the Court’s judges since its creation. In addition, case-law of major importance for Europe is presented through 47 cases, one for each member State*, tracing their background and especially their impact in the various States parties to the Convention. Lastly, the book takes a look inside the Human Rights Building, which is itself an architectural icon and whose 25th anniversary is celebrated this year.

 Cover and contents 

* On 16 September 2022 the Russian Federation ceased to be a Party to the European Convention on Human Rights

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European Convention - A living instrument

The European Convention on Human Rights – A living instrument is a new educational publication which presents the Convention, its development and its Articles and Protocols in an easy-to-read style. The European Convention, a key instrument of the Council of Europe, is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020.

 The European Convention on Human Rights – A living instrument

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First decision


The first application lodged under the Convention system was a German case that gave rise to the first decision in the history of the Convention: X v. Germany. This first decision was delivered 65 years ago, on 23 September 1955, by the European Commission of Human Rights, the filtering body in the original system set up by the Convention.
To date, some 973,000 applications have been allocated to a judicial formation and 947,800 cases have been archived.

 First decision (in French only) 
 European Commission of Human Rights

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Dialogue between Judges 2020

The Convention’s 70th anniversary year began with the Opening of the Court’s judicial year, including a Seminar on the theme of The Convention as a Living Instrument at 70.

 Proceedings of the seminar 

Video of the Seminar :
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First judgment


Exactly 60 years ago, on 14 November 1960, the Court delivered its first judgment, Lawless v. Ireland, with René Cassin as its President.
The judgment concerned preliminary objections and procedural questions regarding the application, on which a judgment on the merits was delivered the following year.
Since its inauguration the Court has delivered 23,291 judgments on just over 51,650 applications.

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Special stamp to mark the 70th anniversary of the European Convention of Human Rights was issued by the French Post Office on 4 September 2020.
A new stamp commemorating 25th anniversary of the Human Rights Building was lauched at the same time.

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European Convention

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European Convention on Human Rights, was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950 and came into force in 1953. It was the first instrument to give effect to certain of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and make them binding.

Since its adoption in 1950 the Convention has been amended a number of times and supplemented with many rights in addition to those set forth in the original text.

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Video on the Convention

A short video presenting the main rights and freedoms in the Convention. Aimed at a wide range of viewers, this video is currently available in 38 languages. The Court wishes to encourage initiatives aimed at including this video in civic education programmes.