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60 years of safeguarding fundamental rights

"The impact of this court cannot be overestimated." His Royal Highness The Crown Prince spoke to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg today. 

18.03.2019

The Council of Europe was founded 70 years ago, first and foremost as a peace project. The founders understood the importance of respect for the rights of the individual in attaining lasting peace. To ensure that the atrocities of World War II could never be repeated, a system was needed to prevent the majority from depriving the minority of basic human rights. 

Convention on Human Rights 

The European Convention on Human Rights was adopted in 1950. It sets out a variety of fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, right to freedom of expression, right to religious freedom, property rights and right to privacy. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment, slavery and the death penalty.

The European Court of Human Rights hears cases involving convention violations committed by the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

Crown Prince Haakon began the day meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal CourtCrown Prince Haakon began the day meeting with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court

European Court of Human Rights

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights. Crown Prince Haakon underscored Norway’s strong and sustained support for the court and the human rights convention.

“Human rights, democracy and the rule of law must never be taken for granted. They must be actively defended, every day. This is particularly important at a time when fundamental democratic principles are being challenged and where the legitimacy of the European Court of Human Rights is being questioned by some states. These challenges pose real and immediate threats to human rights, democracy and rule of law in Europe. There are no sustainable alternatives to democracy. Violations of rights and despotism will inevitably lead to instability, insurrection, violence and suffering.”

Text of The Crown Prince's speech

All are free to present their case

All inhabitants of the Council of Europe’s member states have the right to submit a case to the Court of Human Rights, provided that all national options have been attempted first. 

By 2008 the court had handed down over 10,000 judgments. Such judgments are binding for the countries in question, and have led to changes in national legislation and practices in a number of areas. In this way the European Court of Human Rights plays an important role in the lives of more than 830 million people. According to the Crown Prince, the impact of the court cannot be overestimated.

Peace and human dignity

As a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Crown Prince Haakon is dedicated to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Peace and human dignity are fundamental if the world is to achieve these goals. Many of the Council of Europe’s activities are relevant to the UN SDGs – especially those that involve peace, justice and institution building.

The Crown Prince is concerned about increasing nationalism and lack of respect for international law: 

“Human rights, democracy and the rule of law must never be taken for granted. They must be actively defended, every day. This is particularly important at a time when fundamental democratic principles are being challenged and where the legitimacy of the European Court of Human Rights is being questioned by some states. These challenges pose real and immediate threats to human rights, democracy and rule of law in Europe. There are no sustainable alternatives to democracy. Violations of rights and despotism will inevitably lead to instability, insurrection, violence and suffering.”

Webkast from the Court

Norway recognised the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in 1964 and incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into Norwegian law through the Human Rights Act of 21 May 1999. 

 The Norwegian judge Rolv Ryssdal is the longest serving President of the Court (1985-1998). He is honoured with a bust in the Court's hall. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, the Royal Court.The Norwegian judge Rolv Ryssdal is the longest serving President of the Court (1985-1998). He is honoured with a bust in the Court's hall. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, the Royal Court.

Success brings challenges

The right of individuals to present their case directly is an important aspect of the Court of Human Rights. The large number of those who choose to exercise this right– even as more and more countries have become members of the Council of Europe – has led to capacity problems and long processing times.

In recent years the court has managed to reduce its backlog considerably, and in this anniversary year Norway has decided to provide an extra contribution to further improve capacity.

Met with youth 

Earlier in the day, Crown Prince Haakon visited the European Youth Centre. The centre provides a venue for youth and youth organisations to come together, participate in political processes and influence societal development. The Crown Prince learned about about the centre’s history and the work it performs. 

Crown Prince Haakon met enthusiastic young people at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal CourtCrown Prince Haakon met enthusiastic young people at the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court

 

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