Fundamental and Human Rights in the EU and Internationally

Fundamental and Human Rights in the European Union

Fundamental rights are guaranteed nationally by the constitutions of individual countries and at EU level by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (adopted in 2000 and binding on EU countries since 2009). All EU institutions – the Commission, Parliament and Council – have a role to play in protecting human rights.

The Charter:

  • lays down the fundamental rights that are binding upon the EU institutions and bodies.
  • applies to national governments when they are implementing EU law.

Individuals seeking redress must go through the courts in their own country. As a last resort, they can apply to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The Charter is consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which has been ratified by all EU countries.

The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) identifies and analyses major trends in this field.

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Human Rights and the Council of Europe

Council of Europe is an international organisation in Strasbourg which comprises 47 countries in Europe. It was set up in 1949 to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

Council of Europe promotes human rights through international conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and the Convention on Cybercrime. It monitors member states' progress in these areas and makes recommendations through independent expert monitoring bodies.

European Court of Human Rights functions in connection with the Council of Europe.

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Human Rights and the United Nations

Human rights is a cross-cutting theme in all UN policies and programmes in the key areas of peace and security, development, humanitarian assistance, and economic and social affairs. As a result, virtually every UN body and specialized agency is involved to some degree in the protection of human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. The Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.

A series of international human rights treaties and other instruments adopted since 1945 have expanded the body of international human rights law. The implementation of human rights and the human rights treaties is monitored by treaty bodies, special procedures and the Human Rights Council.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights exercises principal responsibility for UN human rights activities.

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