The European Convention on Human Rights was established in the aftermath of World War II in an effort to codify human rights in international law, and prevent atrocities like the Holocaust from ever happening again. Its backers included some obscure personality called Winston Churchill.
The Convention is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights. Countless times, the Court’s judgments have helped advance the case for minority groups. Recently, Pink News highlighted six times human rights laws helped LGBT equality. Decriminalising homosexuality in Northern Ireland; allowing gay people to serve openly in the British army; equalising the age of consent – all thanks to ECHR rulings.
In 2000, the Labour party introduced the Human Rights Act which codified the articles of the European Convention into British law. What has the Human Rights Act done for you? Quite a lot, as the Mirror article linked there proves. Gary McKinnon, British soldiers, rape victims and more have all been helped by the Act.
And now David Cameron has decided he doesn’t like it and wants to get rid of it. Predictably, most of the right-wing tabloids lined up to cheer him on. As a nation, we are in a very bad place when the mantra “human rights are bad” is being met with approval from significant chunks of society.
The poster boy for the anti-human rights campaigners is Abu Qatada, whom the British government spent much time and money trying to deport, only to be stymied by human rights objections. Theresa May described the situation as “frustrating”, but that’s exactly as it should be. It’s an inconvenient truth that human rights apply to everyone, even the people “we” don’t like. Otherwise, as David Allen Green puts it:
These Tory proposals will not be 'rights'. These will be treats, for being good.
— Jack of Kent (@JackofKent) October 2, 2014
The Tories propose that the Human Rights Act be scrapped and replaced by a “British Bill of Rights”, which would require people to “fulfil responsibilities”. It all sounds reasonable enough on the surface (although, how “responsible” do you need to be to be protected against torture?) but it’s easy to foresee a future government suddenly deciding that trade unions, protest groups, the unemployed or other “undesirables” are not fulfilling their responsibilities and happily diminishing their rights to please the majority. It’s truly scary stuff.
Hopefully the election next year will the Tories tossed out of office and this nonsense forgotten. In any case, I’m concerned enough that I’ve joined Liberty. I thought about signing up in the past but current events have given me the final impetus to join – thanks for the motivation, Dave!
Final thought on the matter:-
If Human Rights can be trimmed to match "British Values", what's our answer when Iran hangs gay people saying that reflects Iranian values?
— Sean Jones (@seanjones11kbw) October 3, 2014