The Council of Europe

This is separate from the EU.  Like the EEC, it was set up after the Second World War, but it has a completely different role; to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law throughout Europe. It has 47 members (compared with the EU’s 28) including Turkey and Russia. UK membership of this is not affected by “Brexit”.

The most important aspect of the Council of Europe for the UK is the European Convention on Human Rights . The UK was one of the first countries to ratify it, in 1951, and it entered into force in 1953. It has  been adapted over the years, and not all members have agreed to all parts of it, but at its core is a statement of fundamental shared values – the right to life, the right to education, protection against torture or unlawful imprisonment.

The Convention has legal force and can be used by individuals across Europe to challenge actions of the state before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Since the Human Rights Act 1998, UK courts can also decide Convention rights, and all public authorities are required to act in accordance with the Convention.

If you want to find out more, the official website of the European Court of Human Rights contains some useful introductory pages and a simplified summary of the Convention rights.

You can find out more about how your own human rights are protected in our legal rights and responsibilities section.

You might also be interested in our other pages on international organisations:

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How the international world works