The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was drafted in 1950 and protects a wide range of rights.
The Human Rights Act 1998 brought the ECHR into UK law. This means that public bodies have to respect the rights under the ECHR and violations of these rights can be challenged before UK courts. Read more about the Human Rights Act here. [link to our page on HRA]
The majority of rights set out in the ECHR are general rights applicable to everyone, including children. These include:
- right to life (Article 2)
- right to be free from torture, cruel or inhuman treatment (Article 3)
- right to a fair trial (Article 6)
- right to respect for private and family life (Article 8)
- right to freedom of expression (Article 10)
- right not to be discriminated against (Article 14)
However, the ECHR also makes several specific references to children, including:
- a provision restricting the right to a public hearing where this is in the interests of a child or young person involved in the case (Article 6(1))
- a right to education (Article 2 of Protocol No. 1)
Implementation of the ECHR is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Individuals can bring a case before the Court if they believe their rights have been violated. However, the Court will only hear cases if the individual can show:
- that they have exhausted domestic remedies (i.e. have raised the case in a national court and appealed this as high as they could go but without success)
- that they filed their complaint to the ECtHR within 6 months of the final decision by a domestic court; and
- that they suffered significant disadvantage because of the alleged violation of their ECHR right(s).
The ECHR has decided many cases involving children’s rights. The majority of these cases allege violations of Article 3 (right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 6 (fair trial) and Article 8 (private and family life). When making a decision, the ECtHR may refer to the UNCRC but it is not bound to do so.
A factsheet on children’s rights in ECtHR case law is available here.