Sixty years ago today, November 4, 1950, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European Convention on Human Rights, was signed and adopted by 12 member states of the Council of Europe.
This Convention was the first instrument to give effect and binding force to specific rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it was furthermore the first treaty to establish a supranational organ to ensure that the States Parties fulfilled their undertakings. The Convention was a milestone in the development of international law. Once states had accepted that a supranational court could challenge decisions taken by their own courts, human rights de facto gained precedence over national legislation and practice.
In order to join the Council of Europe, a State must first sign and ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, thus confirming its commitments to the aims of the Organization, namely the achievement of greater unity between its members based on human rights and fundamental freedoms, peace and respect for democracy and the Rule of Law.
The Convention was entered into force on 3 September 1953 and the rulings of the European Courts of Human Rights based on the Convention resulted in many changes to legislation and have helped to strengthen the rule of law. Any individual, group of individuals, company or non-governmental organization can apply to the Court, provided that they have exhausted all domestic remedies.