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European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is an international human rights treaty, which means an agreement between Governments. It gives all people – adults, children and young people - a set of rights, such as the right to life and the right to freedom of religion.

The ECHR is divided into “articles”, or sections. Each article contains a different right. You can read about these below.

The Human Rights Act 1998 made the ECHR part of domestic law, which means that children can take cases to court in England courts if they think their rights have been breached. If the English courts wrongly reject their claim, they can take a case to the European Court of Human Rights, once they have been through the court system in the UK.

When the UK courts are considering a claim by a child under the Human Rights Act, they should refer to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's General Comments and Concluding Observations

Read our guide to using the ECHR.

The rights in the ECHR are:

Article 2– the right to life

Article 3– freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Article 4– freedom from slavery

Article 5– right to liberty and security

Article 6– the right to a fair trial, including the child's right to be informed promptly, in a language he or she understands, of the alleged offence and to have an interpreter in court if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in court. Restrictions on reporting can be applied to protect the interests of children

Article 7 – no one can be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence when it was carried out

Article 8– the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence

Article 9– the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Article 10– the right to freedom of expression

Article 11– the right to freedom of assembly and association

Article 12 – right to marry

Article 13 – right to an effective remedy

Plus Article 2 of the First Protocol (a later addition) – the right not to be denied the right to education, which must conform with parents’ religious and philosophical convictions.

These are all supported by Article 14, which says that all the rights in the Convention apply to all people without discrimination. 

Articles 8 to 11 are qualified rights – they can be interfered with, but only for a good reason (like public safety, economic well-being or the protection of the rights of others), in accordance with the law generally and only so far as is necessary in the individual case.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has stated that:

The human rights of children and the standards to which all governments must aspire in realising these rights for all children are set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child… The Convention spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere – without discrimination – have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. It further protects children's rights by setting standards in health care, education and legal, civil and social services. States parties to the convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child (Article 3). Moreover, States parties have to ensure that a child is not separated from his or her parents against their will unless such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child, and respect the right of a child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests (Article 9).(Sahin v Germany 2003)