Apocalypse soon: The Conservatives reveal their real plans for human rights – UK Human Rights Blog

human rights kaboom

Here’s an early response to the Conservatives’ plan for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, from – predictably – the UK Human Rights Blog:

“I can see why Grieve, Clarke and Hague had to go. The plan to make European Court of Human Rights judgments “advisory”  is a full frontal attack on an international treaty which we signed up to and haven’t withdrawn from. For the UK to be under an international legal obligation to “abide by” judgments of the ECtHR and for Parliament simultaneously to legislate that those judgments are only advisory is incoherent at best and anarchic at worst. It demonstrates to the whole world that the UK Parliament has no truck for international obligations.

“It is also cowardly. If the intention is to withdraw from the ECHR, then that should be the policy. We should probably have a referendum about it. But these proposals are an attempt to pick a fight with the European Court/Council of Europe under the banner of “protecting” human rights. If the Council refuses to accept change, then the UK will withdraw, or will be expelled. In reality, the UK would be setting terms which the ECtHR cannot possibly accept – if it were to sanction what the UK is proposing then it would be losing the only genuine power it has, to enforce judgments.

“There is a genuine possibility that the ECHR project will now collapse. One of the features of international law is that it relies to a large extent on the good will of the states involved and their legislatures in respecting the obligations – what is the ECtHR going to do if Russia decides not to abide by a judgment… invade the country?

“Another view is that if you really break down what this proposal is saying then it will make little difference in practice. The ECHR doesn’t bind Parliament, but rather the UK as a whole. However, if Parliament decides that it will reword the treaty without withdrawing from it, that is an incoherent approach (as Grieve described it). It actually has the potential to undermine Parliamentary sovereignty, not strengthen it, by precipitating a constitutional crisis. The ECHR is not directly enforceable in domestic courts but who knows what the more creative judges and lawyers will do with this.

“The point about devolution is also really sticky: see Aileen McHarg’s post. Almost certainly, Scotland and Northern Ireland (and perhaps Wales) will challenge the right/ability of Westminster to impose this on them. I think they may win that argument meaning the supposed bill of rights will be England only. Less human rights for the English. Not such a catchy slogan.

“On obligations, which are to ‘rebalance’ the existing rights: What this really amounts to is a politicisation of a rights instrument. Of course, a party which wins a majority in a first past the post system gets the opportunity to impose laws which those people who didn’t vote for the party will object to. The quid pro quo is that if the other party win the next election, they can reverse those laws. But rights instruments (at least, the way they are understood across the world) are intended to sit above party politics and permit scrutiny, from a largely apolitical perspective, by judges of executive action. By recalibrating the rights according to the political beliefs of one party (and from the looks of it, only one section of that party), it turns the supposed “bill of rights” into something quite different: a kind of legal backstop for ideology.

“It’s grim stuff. The Sun, Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph have almost won. The monstering has had its effect. More to come.”

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  1. Methusalada October 3, 2014 at 1:06 am - Reply

    I agree! But maybe you should look a little deeper into Ed Balls crystal ball on the future of humanity for the UK . Do hope you make Progress !

    • Mike Sivier October 3, 2014 at 8:23 am - Reply

      Don’t talk to me about Progress (if you mean the right-leaning Labour thinktank)!

  2. Jim Round October 3, 2014 at 5:29 am - Reply

    Tabloid headlines aside, would you agree that the ECHR and the human rights act needs reform to be relevant to today and the future?
    Society is changing (for better or worse) and any changes need to reflect this.
    The main principals, right to a fair trial etc should be untouchable obviously, even strengthened.
    The problem, as always, stems from kneejerk tabloid headlines about the latest immigrant, criminal, gypsy, pensioner wearing trainers story about how they used the HRA/ECHR to their advantage.
    But as for reasoned debate on the subject, forget it.

    • Mike Sivier October 3, 2014 at 8:26 am - Reply

      I don’t object – on principle – to most of what the Tories are saying they’ll do.
      As the article on Jack of Kent’s blog states, it’s what they haven’t mentioned that worries me.

  3. Tony Dean October 3, 2014 at 7:31 am - Reply

    If the Tories win, Britain will have similar human right to North Korea.
    The is now THE major reason to start a national vote to keep a Tory out campaign

  4. HomerJS October 3, 2014 at 9:39 am - Reply

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this links into such things as TTIP and ISDS. There appears to be a move to establish a new international law that lies above governments, and in the hands of corporations and the rich (1%). This will give a strong legal backing to what they choose to do, as well as undermining democracy. Add weakened human rights to all the other changes the Tories (Coalition) have already made, and you can see how they will bring in a system that is incapable of being challenged. Think about the Beecroft report, and then consider how Cameron considers political activists as terrorists, and it all adds up to a form of government and control that will be very difficult to fight against. Increased snooping powers, secret courts, and the weakening of democracy. We have to fight against it now, because soon we may be unable to do anything about it.

  5. casalealex October 8, 2014 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    So “justice” secretary, (surely this is a misnomer), Chris Grayling, said the Conservatives want to scrap the Human Rights Act so that the final decisions in controversial cases could be made by the supreme court rather than the European court of human rights.
    The Conservatives have, however, omitted to tell us that these human rights would be replaced with the TTIP agreement which will give worldwide unelected and secret corporations the power to sue democratically elected governments; override all decisions of their courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from their parliaments, all in the name of “tackling regulatory obstacles to trade”.
    In fact TTIP is obviously concerned mainly with corporate interest, and nothing to do with human rights, workers rights, the environment etc. Having their own courts making decisions in secret, and totally undemocratic..

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