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  • Writer's pictureJack McClelland

Human Rights – Why the UK Government should keep their hands off them

Although it may be confusing for some, no matter what you read in the Daily Mail, The Sun or the Independent or from many Brexiters the European Convention on Human Rights or the European Court of Human rights has nothing to do with the European Union or BREXIT!

The protection afforded to us from the European Convention on Human Rights was a result of the devasting loss of life following World War II, in a desperate attempt to prevent the actions perpetrated by the Nazis from ever happening again.

In order to bring the outstretched hand of the European Courts closer to our lives in the UK the Human Rights Act 1998 was introduced into domestic law in 2000. This allowed local courts to enforce our rights such as; our right to a fair trial, a right to life and freedom from torture, without having to travel to Strasbourg.

These rights that are in place to protect us from the actions of a Government whether they believe it to be in our best interests or not are set to be ‘updated’ by the current Conservative Government. The party promised in their manifesto that;

“the [HRA] and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government”.

This update backed by the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets to put limits on rights such as the right to life and the prohibition of torture by branches of the State. With even more serious threats from the previous UK Prime Minister, Theresa May who at a Conservative party conference in 2011 noted that the “The Human Rights Act needs to go”.

There has even been a push to replace the current Act with a new British Bill of Rights, that are more in line with the UK Government’s views as they believe:

- Human Rights are inherently European or un-British

- Anti-British Judges use Human Rights to overrule the will of the UK Parliament, and

- Human Rights disproportionality protect the wrong types of people

This notion that Human Rights from the ECHR are anti-British is laughably inaccurate when you think back to the 1940s. Where the pride and joy of Britain Winston Churchill (yes Winston Churchill) pushed for the Council of Europe (the creators of the Convention) and the first president of the European Court was a British Judge.

The UK Government announced that its review into the Human Rights Act 1998 would begin with seeking protections for soldiers from ‘vexatious’ claims. A year on the Overseas Operation Bill was introduced. If this becomes law, it will place a six-year limit on an individual or their family from bringing a claim against the military for offences such as torture and unlawful killing.

With campaigners warning that if a member of the Armed Forces is charged five years after an offence, it will be near impossible to prosecute.

Activist Lawyer previously addressed language used by the UK Government and how it can be used to spark support for their agendas. The HRA is no different. Following the terror attack on London Bridge Boris Johnson claimed that the current Act left restrictions on surveillance of terrorists due to the right to a private life free from Government intervention.

However, this false but powerful statement used to rally support for the Human Rights Act review is straight out of the Government’s playbook. As the right to privacy is a qualified right, this mean that the Government can take lawful measures to impede on a person’s private life if it is necessary to protect national security and public safety.

This review that could have a significant impact on all of our lives is currently being overshadowed by the dramatics of Brexit. However, we must continue to defend the basic protections as a human protected by the current Human Rights Act 1998, to ensure equality and fairness.

One way to help is to sign Amnesty UK’s petition to save the Act which currently has 177,000 signatures.

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