Human Rights Petition

There is a growing and unfortunate clamour for a roll-back on human rights commitments. These included some unfortunate comments from the Prime Minister over the weekend to the effect that he thought that human rights legislation had gone too far.

Personally I don’t think it has gone nearly far enough. One of the major goals the world needs us all to be working towards is a global culture where fairness reigns and people are all seen as having inalienable rights by virtue of their humanity alone.

I don’t happen to like e-petitions as a way of influencing governement but they are here and probably here to stay.

There is a new petition I’ve signed regarding Britain’s relationship to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Here’s the text:

We, the undersigned, believe that the growing clamour to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights is incredibly dangerous, and call for HM Government to resist all calls to do so.The ECHR was drafted in 1950 by members of the Council of Europe (the UK prominent among them), shortly after the worst example of genocide in human history, to protect the fundamental freedoms of people across Europe. Unlike the EU, nearly all countries in Europe are signatories to the ECHR and fall under the jurisdiction of the court it established. To withdraw would set the UK on a very lonely course. Much of the debate surrounding the ECHR focuses on the perceived benefits it brings to convicted prisoners as opposed to their victims. But the ECHR was set up to hold nation states to account for rights violations, not individuals (which is the job of domestic courts). Human rights should be fundamental, inviolable and universal; withdrawal won’t just harm prisoners, but all of us.

Though I feel vaguely disgusted that it is necessary to sign petitions about this, I’ve a horrible feeling that it is becoming necessary.

It can be signed here.


  1. Steven says


    I strongly agree with your sentiments and intend to sign the petition. As a practising barrister I can say that the incorporation of the Convention has had a hugely beneficial effect across society – especially in creating a rights aware culture amongst the judiciary.

    I have successfully relied on the Convention to (1) ensure that the state continues to support destitute asylum seekers whilst they are appealing an asylum support decision (2) prevent the removal of a mentally unwell Brazilian amputee who is awaiting further surgery in the UK (3) ensured that those detained under immigration powers are not held in “ordinary” prisons and (4) prevented the deportation of a Turkish national for a crime committed whilst a child. The Convention naturally “benefits” those on the edges of society – whose cause might be unpopular. That does not mean, of course, that it is unworthy. Quite the opposite.

    I have of course relied upon the Convention in cases which stretch the reach of the various articles. That is how the law develops. Judges do not embrace such claims uncritically. Unfounded and weak claims are rejected as such and so the public perception of an “out of touch” judiciary is misplaced. Thank God for the Judges who – if they were to follow the whims of public opinion would “string em up”, “bring back the birch” and “throw away the key”!

    The Human Rights Act 1998 still retains parliamentary sovereignty in any event. This means that Parliament can still introduce laws that are in breach of the Convention. All that a Judge can do when faced with such legislation is declare it to be “incompatible” and that is it. This may create political pressure (especially at a European level) but it means that the “Queen in Parliament” is still sovereign.

    In addition the HRA 1998 has become entrenched as an almost constitutional statute. Repeal or significant amendment would not create less litigation. On the contrary, as the Daily Mail might put it, lawyers would have a “field day” arguing about when a particular right ceased to exist under the ECHR in the UK and the extent to which rights survived repeal or amendment. It would create a legal mess, a constitutional back-step and a political nightmare.

    In fairness though a solicitor did ask me if they could bring a case to challenge a refusal by the police to allow a man more regular smoke breaks on the basis of his Convention rights (he was being questioned for murder)…I reminded the solicitor that the drafters of the Convention had in mind the ashes of Auschwitz when drafting the Convention and advised him to, as they say in Ulster, “catch yourself on!”

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