European Human Rights System

This page compiles the key legal instruments of the European human rights system, related to enforced disappearances. It also lists relevant Soft Law, Enforcement Mechanisms and Relevant Search Engines. Click the links below to be taken to the relevant section to find more information.

Entry into Force: 3 September, 1953
Ratification Status: 47 
Link: (in French, English, Spanish and Russian)

Relevant provisions:
Article 2 – Right to Life (see Protocol 6 and 13)

1. Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law. 

2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary: 

  • (a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence; 
  • (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
  • (c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.
Article 3 – Proibition of Torture

No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 5 – Right to Liberty and Security

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law: 

  • (a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court; 
  • (b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for noncompliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law; 
  • (c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so; 
  • (d) the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority; 
  • (e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants; 
  • (f) the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition. 

2. Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.

3. Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial. 

4. Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful. 

5. Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

Article 6 – Right to a Fair Trial

1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice. 

2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: 

  • (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; 
  • (b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence; 
  • (c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require; 
  • (d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him; 
  • (e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
Article 13 – Right to an Effective Remedy

Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.

Article 14 – Prohibition of Discrimination

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Entry into force: 1 March 1985
Ratification Status: 46
Link: (in English, French and Russian)

Entry into force: 1 April 2005
Ratification Status: 20 
Link: (in English, French and Russian)

Entry into force: 1 July 2003 
Ratification Status: 44
Link: (in English and French)