Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a fundamental provision that outlines a key principle of the Convention. It establishes the obligation of the High Contracting Parties (the countries that are parties to the Convention) to respect and ensure the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention to all individuals within their jurisdiction.
Article 1 – Obligation to Respect Human Rights
Obligation to respect: This article places a binding legal duty on the member states to respect the human rights outlined in the Convention. This means that governments must refrain from taking any action that would violate or infringe upon the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention.
Obligation to ensure: Beyond mere non-interference, Article 1 requires the member states to take active measures to ensure that these rights and freedoms are effectively protected and upheld. This includes enacting laws and establishing institutions or mechanisms to safeguard these rights within their territories.
Everyone within their jurisdiction: Article 1 applies to everyone within the jurisdiction of the High Contracting Parties. This means that governments are not only responsible for the rights of their own citizens but also for the rights of anyone within their territory, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. It includes citizens, residents, refugees, asylum seekers, and even visitors.
Rights and freedoms defined in Section I: The rights and freedoms referred to in Article 1 are those listed in Section I of the Convention. This section includes a broad range of civil and political rights, such as the right to life, freedom of expression, right to a fair trial, prohibition of torture, and many others.
Non-discrimination: While not explicitly mentioned in Article 1, the principle of non-discrimination is inherent in its language. The obligation to respect and ensure rights applies to everyone, emphasising that these rights should be protected without discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, religion, or any other grounds.
In practical terms, Article 1 of the ECHR serves as a cornerstone for the entire Convention. It underscores the commitment of member states to the protection of human rights and serves as a basis for legal actions against states that fail to fulfil their obligations under the Convention. Individuals and groups can take cases before the European Court of Human Rights to challenge violations of their rights by member states, with Article 1 being a key reference point in such cases. This article reinforces the universality and indivisibility of human rights, emphasising that they apply to all individuals, everywhere within the jurisdiction of member states.