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Monday, 4 March 2013

Human Rights and Tabloid Ping Pong

The Government cannot make its mind up about Human Rights.

We know that it doesn’t like them and we have seen numerous threats to abolish the Human Rights Act –

Over the weekend their approach has become confusing to say the least. Home Secretary Teresa Nasty Party May reportedly declared an intention to remove us from the Jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights –

This actually contradicts their previously declared wish to get rid of the Human Rights Act. That Act did not create any new rights. It simply incorporated the European Convention on rights into English Law so that they could be enforced in UK Courts.  Before the Act came into force in 2001 the only way a person could take action for breach of the Convention was to go to the European Court in Strasbourg. After 2001 they could go to the High Court here and have a decision made by UK judges.

There is a final right of appeal to the European Court but that is all. So if a prisoner objects to deportation because they don’t want to be separated from their children in this country, they will apply to the UK courts not to Strasbourg. So taking us out of the jurisdiction of that court would actually change hardly anything. In effect our Supreme Court would be the final court of Appeal in the small number of cases that get that far.

This seems to demonstrate a disturbing lack of understanding on the part of our government – apart from a need to say something that goes down well with the tabloid press. It is like a game of ping pong only with our cherished freedoms at stake.

The rhetoric also hides the fact that what they cannot do is abolish any actual rights. They are enshrined in the Convention and also the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. That was the work of Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt and was described  the latter as her greatest achievement.

Rather than come out with confusing and contradictory rhetoric about which courts can hear cases they should just come out and tell us which of our rights they want to get rid of! Freedom of Speech? Right to Life? Freedom of Association? Family Life?

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