Human rights

The Student module is focused on the European Convention on Human Rights.

This section suggests class activites that could support further exploration and discussion of issues underlying Human Rights.

on this page
Stepping stones
Myths and facts
Group work
Follow-up Quiz

Human rights KS3

Quick guide to human rights 

In 1953 the Council of Europe in Strasbourg passed a treaty called the European Convention of Human Rights.

All 47 member states of the Council of Europe, representing 800 million people, signed the treaty.

The rights contained in the treaty are fundamental. Any person in any of those 47 countries for whatever purpose is entitled to them. And government and all public bodies in those countries are legally obliged to respect them.

Stepping stones

The start

People have been concerned to define and protect basic rights of man over a long period of human history. In Europe the first attempt to protect citizens against the excessive power of their rulers is contained in Magna Carta (1215).

20th century codes

The two world wars of the 20th century and their horrors spurred international efforts to set down basic human rights and have them protected in law. 

The three most influential codes resulting from these efforts have been:

     the Universal Declaration of Human Rights produced by the United Nations (1948),

     the European Convention on Human Rights produced by the Council of Europe (1953),

     and most recently the Charter of Fundamental Rights produced by the European Union (2009).

In the UK

In the UK, the Human Rights Act of 1998, which brings the provisions of the European Convention into English law, provides legal protection for citizens against any infringement of human rights in government or public bodies. 


This module introduces the basic ideas of human rights and how they are protected. 

Myths and facts

Myths about the European Court of Human Rights

Myth:  The Court is another Brussels institution interfering with the UK’s ability to manage its own affairs.
Fact: It is nothing to do with the EU.
Myth:  The Court is taking control of the UK’s legal system
Fact: Countries have some latitude or freedom in how they interpret the rulings
Myth: The Court has too many cases to handle and it takes too long to hear appeals.
Fact: This is true. There is a backlog of 120,000 cases which would take three years to clear without the new cases coming in.
Myth: The UK should not accept judgements from the Court with which it does not agree.
Fact: If that were so there would be no point in the Court existing

See: Five myths about the European court of human rights
from The Guardian (7 February 2011)

Group work

1.    In small groups or class round up, list what you think are the most important human rights covered by the European Convention on Human Rights

These might include: freedom from torture and from slavery, right to a fair trial, right to life, freedom from discrimination, right to privacy, freedom of assembly and expression, freedom of conscience and religion.

2.    What examples of can the class suggest of where these rights may be in conflict with each other or where they may not be protected in the UK?
This might be extended to a search via newspaper cuttings and the internet.

Check out the case brought by S and Mr Marper questioning the right of the UK authorities to keep fingerprints and DNA samples with no time limit

Or the case brought against her employers by Sharon Coleman over flexible working.


Some suggested topics for class debate

1.    Individual countries should deal with their own human rights abusers

2.    Terrorists should be protected by the Geneva Convention

3.    It’s good that rulings from the European Court of Human Rights means that some UK laws have to be changed

4.    Can people who took part in the rioting and looting in England in August 2011 be named and shamed without their human rights being breached?  What are the issues of rights and responsibilities here?

Follow-up Quiz

What rules does the Geneva Convention set out?
A   How people should be treated in war

Which organisation set up the European Court of Human Rights?
The Council of Europe

Is the European Court of Human Rights restricted to the member states of the EU?
No, it applies to the 47 member countries that have signed up to it

Where is the International Court of Justice situated?
A  In The Hague in the Netherlands

Is the International Court of Justice an EU organisation?
A   No, it is a United Nations organisation

Are human rights protected in UK law?
Yes, in the Human Rights Act 1998

What other court could a UK citizen appeal to if they think they have a case of human rights abuse?
A UK citizen can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.