Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Human Rights Act: Useful or Abolish?

Image courtesy of CoS

The Conservative Government are looking to get rid of the Human Rights Act. It only came into law, with much controversy in 2000, but it incorperates the post-war European Convention On Human Rights, inspired by Sir Winston Churchill (a Tory himself).

Billy Bragg, a lefty singer-songwriter and political activist wrote this on his Facebook:

"It’s farcical that the Tories plan to abolish the Human Rights Act. Every other major democracy has a Bill of Rights. We are apparently going to be offered a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. This ridiculous title suggests firstly that rights are not universal, that we alone in Britain can somehow have our own human rights that belong only to us and do not apply to nasty foreigners. Secondly, it implies that rights are not unalienable, that they are instead reciprocal, only earned by acting responsibly.

The biggest joke of all is that government is responsible for upholding human rights, not just for its own citizens, but for everyone who falls under its jurisdiction wherever it operates.

This is the bottom line for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the UN in 1948 and basis for the European Convention on Human Rights that the Tories hope to tame. Article Two states that every individual is entitled to the rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR, without distinction of any kind.

By seeking to introduce responsibilities into our Bill of Rights, the Tories make our freedoms conditional. This is a slippery slope, as, once unmoored from unalienable right, the conditions will be set by those in power. This undermines the whole premise of human rights – that they protect the individual from arbitrary use of power. It would be terribly ironic if, after winning the 2015 election, the Tories try to deprive us of our rights as we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

If the Tories want to promote responsibility, then they shouldn’t be attempting to wriggle out of their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. It sends out the message that you can choose which laws you respect. Furthermore, it undermines Britain’s standing in the world, robbing us of any pretence of moral leadership in international affairs.

And it shows how worried the Tories are about the next election – they are willing to trash Britain’s reputation and reinvigorate the case for Scottish independence – all in the vain hope of outflanking UKIP on the right." (see <here>

The Daily Mirror addressed the question of "What has the Human Rights Act ever done for us?" and highlighted 9 cases where existing British law was not sufficient to protect people and how the Human Rights Act helped out: 
  • It stops unfair extradition
  • It protects our soldiers
  • It gives us the right to have children
  • It provides justice to rape victim
  • It protects victims of domestic violence
  • It stops Big Brother spying on us
  • It supports the right to protest against war
  • It guards against slavery
  • It helps expose fatal failings in the system
Read in full <here>

One Tweeter suggested this: Imagine if news media pushed Human Rights Act as far as possible to check the State, instead of attacking the Act on behalf of the State? (see <here>)

Sadly it has to be asked, what is the real motive behind politicians getting rid of the Human Rights Act? Is it best intentioned? Or does it want more freedom to do as it wants? Do you think the HRA is useful for the people of Britain? What would Churchill make of this?
Read more <here> and <here>

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