Portugal is a Member State of the Council of Europe (COE) and of the United Nations (UN), and has human rights obligations at the regional and universal levels.
Regional: European System
As a Member of the COE, Portugal has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Portugal has ratified the Revised European Social Charter, and has authorized the European Committee of Social Rights to decide collective complaints against it. Its human rights policies and practices are also monitored by the COE Commissioner for Human Rights, who identifies gaps in human rights protection, conducts country visits, engages in dialogue with States, and prepares thematic reports and advice.
Individuals and groups have submitted complaints of human rights violations committed by Portugal to the European Court of Human Rights. For example, the Court found Portugal violated the right to property when it expropriated a family’s land in order for a State owned company to build a motorway. See ECtHR, Perdigão v. Portugal, no. 24768/06, ECHR 2010, Judgment of 16 November 2010. Additionally, the Court may grant interim measures to protect people in urgent situations of risk in Portugal.
As a State party to the Revised European Social Charter, Portugal must submit regular reports to the European Committee of Social Rights on its implementation of the Charter’s provisions. The Committee has also decided collective complaints against Portugal. For example, the Committee considered a complaint of housing related injustices suffered by the Roma people in Portugal, and determined various housing policies to be discriminatory. See ECSR, European Roma Rights Center v. Portugal, Complaint No. 61/2010, Merits, 30 June 2011.
Portugal is a party to the following regional human rights treaties:
- European Convention on Human Rights and several of its protocols
- Revised European Social Charter
- COE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence
- COE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
United Nations System
As a UN Member State, Portugal is subject to the oversight of various UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review and thematic special procedures. As a party to specific universal human rights treaties, Portugal’s policies and practices are monitored by UN treaty bodies. It has accepted the complaints procedure of eight treaty bodies.
Portugal has ratified the following UN human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Portugal has also ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and optional protocols to the CRC addressing children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Portugal has a duty to submit State reports to the UN treaty body associated with each UN human rights treaty Portugal has ratified. These reports must be submitted on a periodic basis and describe the steps taken to implement the treaty provisions.
Portugal has also ratified optional protocols and made appropriate declarations allowing individuals to submit complaints against the State alleging violations of the ICCPR, ICESCR, CAT, CED, CEDAW, CERD, CRC, and CRPD. Additionally, certain UN treaties contain inquiry procedures, which allow the UN treaty body to consider allegations of grave or systematic human rights violations. Portugal has accepted the inquiry procedures of the ICESCR, CAT, CED, CEDAW, CRC, and CRPD.
In March 2001, Portugal extended a standing invitation to UN special procedures, which means that any such mandate holders are welcome to conduct visits in Portugal. For example, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent went on a mission to Portugal in 2011 and published a visit report in 2012.
For more information on Portugal’s engagement with UN human rights bodies, visit http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/PTIndex.aspx.
Last updated: February 2020