The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

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The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is an international treaty elaborated within the Council of Europe. It was signed in 1950’s in order “…to take the first steps for the collective enforcement of certain of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration" and was finally signed on the 3rd of September 1953. The Convention was intended to provide a common standard across European Nations in respect of the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. As of January 2000, most of the countries in the European Union have incorporated the Convention into their domestic law, enabling the judiciary of each country to take full account of its provisions when considering a grievance.

The European Convention Rights are usually construed in "negative" terms, meaning that they guarantee that the State should not interfere with protected rights and freedoms (eg. no interference from the side of the State should take place in rights like the freedom of expression, or the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property). However, in some circumstances the Convention imposes a duty on the State to take active steps to enable its citizens to enjoy the rights protected under the ECHR.These duties are called "positive obligations".

Accordingly, the ECHR created, with every article, a positive obligation to the United Kingdom, that being ensuring all these rights are protected. Two of the most important articles in the ECHR are Articles 2 and 3.

        Article 2 refers to the right to life. It guarantees an “absolute right and derogations are not permitted even in difficult times of war or public emergency”. Though, there are some exceptions where a person can be deprived of his life but only in circumstances that are covered by law. Those exceptions have been defined in Article 2(2), and cover the use of necessary force in self-defence, to quell riots and aid an arrest. Article 2 begins with a main negative obligation on member States not to take life intentionally and furthermore a positive obligation to protect the right to life by law.

It imposes on member States duties, which at the moment of their entrance into the ECHR are obliged to fulfil and safeguard. The first positive obligation that Article 2 imposes on member States is to assist in an emergency (Hughes v UK (1986) 48 DR 258) and to warn, monitor and give information if there is a threat to life (LCB v UK [1998] TLR 381). Lord Diplock’s approach to this matter was that “the individual's right to life is ... the most fundamental provision of human rights ....", and according to the European Convention of Human Rights “Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law".

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The same principle in more details has been stated in the case of Jordan v. UK [2001] ECHR 24746/94, where the European Court of Human Rights emphasised the importance of Article 2. In this case it was decided that Article 2, which safeguards the right to life and sets out the circumstances when deprivation of life may be justified, ranks as one of the most fundamental provisions in the Convention, to which in peacetime no derogation is permitted under Article 15. Together with Article 3, it also enshrines one of the basic values of the democratic societies making up the ...

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