The European Convention on Human Rights is an international legal document signed by many countries within Europe, which came into force on 3rd September, 1953. The convention is signed by all Council of Europe members, which includes the UK, all EU member states, and other countries including Turkey and Norway.
The European Convention on Human Rights created several basic human rights that are believed to be the minimum rights that a human being can expect living in a modern society. These include the right to life (article two), the right to freedom from torture (article three) and the right to a fair trial (article six).
There are eighteen articles under the European Convention on Human Rights, plus a number of protocols that discuss additional matters such as those relating to property, education, elections, discrimination and the total abolition of the death penalty.
How are convention rights recognised in the UK?
The UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. This means if any UK citizen believes their human rights have been breached they are able to bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights, located in Strasbourg in France.
Practically speaking, the UK courts are capable of hearing cases concerning breaches of human rights in the first instance, with the European Court of Human Rights acting as a court of final appeal.
The UK Human Rights Act, 1998, was brought onto the UK statute book to bring certain convention rights (not all of them) within the remit of UK law. This makes it far easier for you to bring a case in a UK court in circumstances where you may feel your convention rights have been breached. The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on 2nd October, 2000.
What can I do if my rights are breached?
Human rights exist and should be respected and protected by the government of each signatory country and by the agencies, departments and service providers that operate in the name of that government.
This means that you can bring a case against any public organisation or any private organisation performing a public function, where you are the victim of an action or omission that you feel violates one of your convention rights.
For the purposes of bringing a case in a UK court for a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998, you must be able to demonstrate that the organisation that has breached your rights is a public authority or a private company fulfilling a public function.
Examples of such organisations include: government ministries and departments, the courts, local authorities and councils, the police, the NHS, schools and other bodies set up by law, including for example the General Medical Council.
Private organisations that perform public functions such as: energy providers, utility companies, rail operators, housing associations and private care homes or hospitals providing care for the NHS also fall into this category.
If your rights are breached by a public body, or a private body performing a public function, then you may have a case against them. If you feel this is the case you should seek legal advice from a human rights solicitor.
If the breach has been made by a private company or individual you may still have a case as UK courts are obliged to consider human rights in all cases brought before them. Again, you should seek legal advice from a human rights solicitor in such circumstances.
More information on those who may breach your human rights can be found here.
More information on what your human right are can be found here.
A guide to the 1998 UK Human Rights Act can be found here.