European Convention on Human Rights

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Promotion of human rights by Europe © European Commission

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) guarantees the fundamental rights, such as the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, the right to respect for private and family life, freedom of expression, and the prohibition of discrimination. The Convention was opened for signature in Rome on 4 November 1950. Switzerland ratified it in 1974.

The Convention is supplemented by various Additional Protocols, which extend the catalogue of protected rights (Additional Protocols 1, 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 16). Switzerland has signed Protocol No. 1 and ratified the following Protocols:

  • Protocol No. 6 of 28 April 1983 concerning the abolition of the death penalty, entered into force for Switzerland on 13 October 1987
  • Protocol No. 7 of 22 November 1984, entered into force for Switzerland on 1 November 1988
  • Protocol No. 13 of 3 May 2002 concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, entered into force for Switzerland on 1 July 2003

Switzerland has also ratified various protocols of amendment, i.e. protocols which, unlike the additional protocols, amend the text of the Convention itself and therefore require the consent of all states parties. The most important of these are:

  • Protocol No. 11 of 11 May 1994, entered into force on 1 November 1998
  • Protocol No. 14 of 13 May 2004, entered into force on 1 June 2010

The ECHR is unique among human rights instruments in that it has established a control mechanism which enables any individual, after exhausting all remedies through the national courts, for example, to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights for violation of the ECHR and its protocols. Until 31 October 1998, such appeals were examined by the European Commission for Human Rights and subsequently, in certain circumstances, by the Court. At that time, a Swiss national was appointed to the chair of the European Commission for Human Rights: Stefan Trechsel. 

The Swiss government is represented before the Court by the International Human Rights Unit of the Federal Office of Justice. Appeal forms for the Court, as well as an information sheet, are available from the Federal Office of Justice or from the Court.