The conviction that basic human rights should be adjudicated internationally helps define modern European political culture. The most successful realization of this principle is the European Convention on Human Rights. Founded in 1950, this international legal regime can overturn national laws if they violate regionally recognized human rights standards. Although governments and domestic courts retain considerable autonomy in deciding precisely how to implement the convention, their overall record of compliance is good. Among the practices it has reformed are the United Kingdom’s treatment of gays in the military, judicial procedures in Italy, and the adjudication of children’s rights in Belgium. In the best single history of this remarkable system, Bates describes its evolution from a bulwark against totalitarianism to a framework designed to encourage reform and block extreme acts of government malfeasance -- and, in recent years, to a tool for improving (and, to some extent, homogenizing) national human rights enforcement.
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