Right to Life through the European Court of Human Rights Practice
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“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.”
Article 2 of the Convention on Human Rights
Right to life is a concept that considering that a human being has an essential right to live, particularly that a human being has the right not to be unjustly killed by another human being.
Nowadays the life of a human being is claimed to be the main value of the society. This provision is set by most constitutions or statutory documents of the modern world’s states. The main among them are the following:
•the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776 (all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that "among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness")
•the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. ”)
•the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950 (a protected human right to life in Article 2)
•the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 (“Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Article 6.1)
•the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 (“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” Section 7)
•the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989
•the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (the principle of human dignity paramount, even above the right to life)
•the Catholic Church has issued a Charter of the Rights of the Family (states that the right to life is directly implied by human dignity)
But we are, actually, more interested in the ECHR. The ECHR sets and guarantees the most essential human rights and freedoms such as right to liberty, security, principle of equality and fair trial and so forth. But right to life is supposed to be the most important.
Right to life is established in Article 2 of the ECHR or if to be more correct in its 1st part and the 2nd one makes statement about deprivation of right to life. It says about the necessity of the protection of right to life by law. The main provisions are the establishment of the most important right of a human being, in my opinion, the prohibition of taking somebody’s life/violating someone’s right to life and the prevention of foreseeable loss of life.
Under the Convention in order to ensure the enforcement and implementation of it in the member states of the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights was established. The European Court of Human Rights supervises the fulfilment of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. If any of articles or protocols of the ECHR is alleged to be violated, ECtHR hears the case applied by either an individual or the state in the order of established procedure to find out whether violations take place or not.
Actually, since the year 1959 when the ECtHR was established, it has heard more than 34,000 of cases and this number is constantly growing. Among all of them more than 1,500 contained statements about violations of Article 2 of the ECHR. It is nearly 4,5% of all cases heard by the ECtHR. Unfortunately, only in 392 cases the Court hasn’t found any violations.
There are several issues within which the cases of violation of Article 2 are applied and they are the following:
•Expulsion (deportation of someone from country)
•Extradition (process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state)
•Positive obligations (state's obligations to engage in an activity to secure the effective enjoyment of a fundamental right)
•Death penalty (process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime)
•Effective investigation (the obligation of the state and law-enforcement bodies to provide effective ways of finding out the circumstances of the certain case)
•Life (in this context, violations of somebody’s right to life)
•Absolutely necessary (cases when someone’s right to life is violated due to exceptional circumstances)
•Use of force (excess of using force beyond legal limits)
Many debates arise within the issue of life itself. The concept of a right to life is central to discussions on the issues of euthanasia, abortion, dignity, self defence and war. But even taking into account these topics we can’t say that is the whole range of issues. Many questions are still discussed and some are just arising.
The arising questions within the issue of life are of this kind:
Should one life be saved on account of another?
Should right to life protected only from third parties or, also, from ourselves?
Do unborn yet or early born children have right to life?
If you have right to life, can you, as a consequence, deal with its end?
The European Court of Human Rights gives answers to these questions through hearing and making decisions about the cases that are applied. To sum up, we can say that the ECtHR not only makes the case law in the area of protection of a right to life but, also, influences the morality of modern world. Its decisions are supposed to be objective and create the basis for future generations’ attitude about these questions. Moreover, nowadays its practice is widely used in not only countries-members of the Council of Europe. So its activity is incredibly important in order to provede the enforcement of not onle right to life, but, also, other rights and freedoms of a human being.