The Slynn Foundation’s new Human Rights Training Manual

When I visited Tirana last month, I was present at the launch of the Slynn Foundation’s new Training Manual. It had been translated into Albanian, and an initial print run of 300 copies was commissioned.  The Manual (in both its English and Albanian versions) has now been posted on the Slynn Foundation’s website[1] and is available to be downloaded in either language.   Its principal author was Jonathan Cooper OBE, and he received support in recent years from Martha Spurrier (whose appointment to succeed Shami Chakrabarti as Director of Liberty was announced  this week) and Toby Collis, who joined Jonathan and me for a two-day training course for Albanian judges three weeks ago).   The Foundation is very grateful to all of them.

The Introduction to the Manual  sets the scene:

This manual is aimed primarily at those within governments of the member states of the Council of Europe who are responsible for implementing international human rights law. It describes the international law framework for protecting and promoting human rights, both at the United Nations and the Council of Europe. There is a particular emphasis on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  Key themes are then developed.  This involves explaining how human rights standards work.   These include requirements of legality, positive obligations, non-discrimination, proportionality and the prohibition on retrospective criminal laws.  Specific issues are also considered.  These are equality as the basis for human rights protection, states of emergency, extra-territorial application and the non-State actor.

The manual then goes on to consider the rights contained in the ECHR and other international human rights treaties which are core to the rule of law. These are the right to life, protection from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, the right to liberty and detention conditions, fair trial and sentencing. Issues arising out of asylum, refoulement, expulsion, rendition, extradition and sanctions regimes are also identified.

Finally, the manual explores the democratic and participatory rights essential to a society rooted in human rights values and the rule of law, such as freedom of speech, assembly and association. Privacy rights and the right to manifest religious belief are similarly investigated.   Privacy rights are also examined in the context of evidence collection and surveillance operations.

This manual is principally concerned with the administration of justice and the investigation and prosecution of crime and rights that impact on this. Hence some rights have not been given attention, for instance the prohibition of slavery or forced labour (Article 4 ECHR), family life (Article 8 ECHR) or the right to marry (Article 12 ECHR).

Sources of Human Rights within the Manual

The human rights standards at the core of this manual and training programme are those derived from the Council of Europe mechanisms to protect and promote human rights and the UN human rights framework.

The Council of Europe has, for over fifty years created a sophisticated body of human rights law and legal principles that can be readily applied. The Council of Europe’s chief mechanism to protect human rights is the European Court of Human Rights, which is charged with the responsibility of interpreting and implementing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  Much reliance will therefore be had on the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, although the broader human rights framework within the Council of Europe will also be examined.  Judgments referred to in this manual are generally those of the European Court of Human Rights unless otherwise indicated.  Both the UN and the Council of Europe systems for protecting human rights will be explained below.

Additionally, the manual will refer to international norms binding on Council of Europe states, particularly the ICCPR and ICESCR jurisprudence. However, due to the strength of the ECHR machinery these will be peripheral and supplementary, and indicated where relevant.  Where appropriate, other regional human rights bodies, such as the African Union and the Inter-American system will also be drawn upon, as will the relevant decisions of domestic courts.  These are not binding but are used in the interpretation of similar human rights provisions.  Where necessary, this manual will distinguish between the position under general international human rights and the ECHR.

This manual includes case law up until 15 December 2015.

It would be nice if the Foundation were able to attract the funds needed to translate the Manual into the language of other states in the Balkan region and beyond.   If any reader can suggest a source of funds, please contact me at the contact address at this site[2].   It has the merit of being clear, relevant and up to date.   As the Introduction suggests, it is a training manual for judges and prosecutors in criminal courts: it does not purport to provide comprehensive coverage of all the provisions in the European Convention of Human Rights.

Last year, with considerable help from Professor Rachel Murray,[3] the Foundation prepared a similar training manual for judges and prosecutors in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  On that occasion the emphasis was on a combination of the Palestinian Basic Law, the Arab Charter on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by all of which Palestine is bound, with comparative material being drawn from other international sources, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

All my work in this field over the last seven years has convinced me of the importance of this country remaining a member of the Council of Europe, and thus able to share our understanding of these international rights with the judges and prosecutors in other countries who are our partners in a mission to understand what they mean in practice.

The Foundation is very grateful to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and to the British embassy in Tirana for their consistent support of its work in Tirana, to which I have paid nearly 20 short visits since February 2010.

 

[1] The two links can be found at the end of the section on Albania.

[2] email:  hb@sirhenrybrooke.me

[3] Professor Murray is the Director of the Human Rights Implementation Centre at the University of Bristol.

 

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