The "European Convention on Human Rights" sets forth a number of fundamental rights and freedoms (right to life, prohibition of torture, prohibition of slavery and forced labour, right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, no punishment without law, right to respect for private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, right to marry, right to an effective remedy, prohibition of discrimination). More rights are granted by additional protocols to the Convention (Protocols 1 (ETS No. 009), 4 (ETS No. 046), 6 (ETS No. 114), 7 (ETS No. 117), 12 (ETS No. 177) and 13 (ETS No. 187)).
Parties undertake to secure these rights and freedoms to everyone within their jurisdiction.The Convention also establishes an international enforcement machinery. To ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the Parties, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has been set up. It deals with individual and inter-State petitions. At the request of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the Court may also give advisory opinions concerning the interpretation of the Conventions and the protocols thereto.
Following the entry into force of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention on 1 November 1998 (1), the control machinery established by the Convention has been restructured. All alleged violations of human rights are referred directly to the Court. In the majority of cases the Court sits in Chambers of seven judges. It decides on the admissibility and merits of applications and if necessary undertakes an investigation. The Court will also place itself at the disposal of the parties with a view to securing a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the protocols thereto. Hearings are public unless the Court in exceptional circumstances decides otherwise.
Within a period of three months from the date of the judgment of the Chamber, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases (serious questions affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or the protocols thereto, or serious issues of general importance), request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber. If the request is accepted, the resulting judgment of the Grand Chamber will be final. Judgments of Chambers will become final when the parties declare that they will not request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber, or have made no request for reference three months after the date of the judgment, or, if such a request is made, when the panel of the Grand Chamber rejects the request to refer.
The parties to a case must abide by the judgments of the Court and take all necessary measures to comply with them. The Committee of Ministers supervises the execution of judgments. The Secretary General may request Parties to provide explanations on the manner in which their domestic law ensures the effective implementation of the Convention.