Overview on the European Convention of Human Rights and The Institutional System and Practice of the European Social Charter

Course outline

Building on the general introduction on the Council of Europe and the 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the aim of this course is to draw the horizon of the rights protected under this instrument. In this vain the course aims provide a solid base for the more specialized courses offered at the subsequent stages of the program. The primary focus of the course is to introduce the scope and ambit of the rights protected by the ECHR as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Among others the right to life and the prohibition of torture, the right o liberty and security, the right to fair trial, the right to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion, right to effective remedy and the principle of non-discrimination will be discussed in detail. In analyzing the rights protected under the auspices of ECHR methods of interpretation as applied by the ECtHR will be duly considered and the derogations offered by the Convention itself will be mapped out as well. Reference will be made as to how the case-law of the ECtHR has influenced domestic courts in Europe in interpreting these rights. Providing the general picture of the substantive protection provided by the ECtHR will familiarize students with the main themes of human rights protection, the legal techniques and methods of interpretation in defining such rights, the role of the ECtHR in limiting the ambit of rights and correspondingly drawing the limits of government encroachment. Understanding the mechanism of protection provided by the ECHR and the interpretative technique will be facilitated with case studies and analyzing of ECtHR judgments.

The course addresses the birth, development, content, practice and impact of the Social Charter on the legal systems of the European states and on the law of the European Union in details. The course analyses the institutions of the supervisory mechanism of the Charter and its operation. Furthermore the course provides an insight into the political philosophy of the protection of social rights and the major theoretical problems. It gives special attention to the question of the reaction of Charter system to the ongoing economic crises.


The primary objective of the course is to enable the students to gain a horizontal understanding and appreciation of the concrete rights protected under the ECHR and the corresponding case law of the ECtHR. Students will gain an in-depth insight on the substantive protection provided by the ECHR on the one hand and to understand the contribution of the ECtHR on the other. Competences acquired in this course will include the ability to distinguishing matters triggering protection under the ECHR from those which fall outside of its scope, the ability to identify the major issues related to the scope, interpretation and derogations of a certain right under the ECHR. Students will be also familiar with the ECtHR’s corresponding case law and will be able to link that case law to national practices.

The course will introduce the unique approach of the Social Charter to the protection of social rights and the relationship between the principles of human rights protection and democratization. The Charter relies on the content and structure of the ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards (Convention (C102), thus students will improve their skills to analyze international legal instruments in a comparative manner.


  • Jacobs and White, The European Convention on Human Rights 5th edn (OUP, 2010)  ISBN-10: 0199543380
  • Harris, O'Boyle and Warbrick, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights 2nd edn (OUP, 2009) ISBN-10: 0406905940
  • The European Social Charter (2012), Council of Europe ISBN 978-92-871-7131-3
  •  Andrzej Marian Swiatkowski: Charter of Social Rights of the Council of Europe; Wolters Kluwer ISBN 9041126082


  • G Letsas, A Theory of Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights, 2nd edition, OUP, 2008, ISBN-10: 0199203431
  • S Greer, The European Convention on Human Rights: Achievements, Problems and Prospects, (Cambridge University Press) 2006 ISBN-13: 9780521608596
  • C Gearty, V Mantouvalou, Debating Social Rights, (Hart, 2011) ISBN-10: 184946023X
  • The Internationally Recognized Right to Housing: Implication and (Some) Application. Courdenes Constitucionales No. 45-65. vol. 2. (2008) pp. 91-100
  • Universal justification for social rights Miskolc Journal of International Law vol. 6, (2009) No. 1, pp. 18-23


Pal Sonnevend

Gábor Kardos