Archive | October, 2011

What’s wrong with the human rights act?

14 Oct

So today, I learned of Theresa May’s most recent attack on the human rights act. Or as I like to call it, Theresa’s most recent attempt to wind me up. This of course based on a recent failed deportation of a Bolivian student because he allegedly owned a cat. As much as I miss Liquorice my old cat and I know a few cat crazed individuals, I have to regretfully inform you that there is no “right to own a cat” clause within the human rights act. Sorry (Meow)/ (Shoes).

In fact the unsuccessful deportation had nothing at all to do with either the human rights act or Maya the cat (incidentally the name of my Dad’s car, which is a Jaguar, that’s a little bit funny to me). The deportation was due to the Home Office not following its own procedures correctly, in essence they scored an own goal and the judge’s ruling bore no relation to human rights grounds, but still the issue came up… again…

Firstly I’d like to point out a few things; I actually don’t know many people who disapprove of the human rights act who have actually read the human rights act, or more the point, read what those rights are. Do you really know many people who are dead set against their right to be alive? Or get married and start a family? Have a fair trial? Or participate in free elections? I listened to the justice minister Lord McNally talk about this somewhat and he hit the nail on the head. This is to my mind the best law ever written, but it’s not perfect, for instance your right to marry and start a family does not include homosexual couples, which is to my mind wrong. However Lord McNally simply said he asks people who want to scrap the act, which article (right) they wish to repeal (scrap). Unsurprisingly, not many people respond to that question.

Why don’t people know how to answer that? That’s because there’s not really much to disagree with in it. A lot of what is reported in the media regarding the act (though actually not the Kettering Evening Telegraph so kudos to them), is hyper-sensationalised urban myths, just like Maya the cat.

I’ve had this conversation with a UKIP supporter at county hall and he said what he didn’t like about it was the fact that it seemed that Europe was muscling in on British justice and it seemed like criminals were being given more rights than victims of crime. This is perception, but I thought it helpful to point out a few things to him.

  • Firstly not all rights guaranteed under the human rights act are unconditional, if you are arrested and imprisoned for instance; you have thus lost your right to liberty. The act doesn’t prevent criminals from being punished, but rather protects them from “no punishment without law” and grant “a fair trial”, all of which are enshrined parts of British morality.
  • Secondly the human rights act is based upon the European Convention on Human Rights, it is a British law which enables British judges to rule on human rights matters without having to send human rights cases to Europe. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the complete opposite of European intervention to me. It is true that the European Convention would still protect those rights so long as we remained in the EU if we scrapped the law, which would make all these arguments academic without withdrawing from the EU, but really, what’s wrong with protecting our rights to hear these cases within the UK?

So are anti human rights campaigners misdirected? Should they be picking a fight with the European convention instead?

Certainly my UKIP acquaintance thought this was a valid question, but then I asked him a couple of very simple questions. British rights for British people based on our own moral framework is all well and good but shouldn’t we ensure that when Brits go abroad on holiday or on Business that they’re protected from harm, from torture or imprisonment without trial? Well yes of course, is the response. Well then; you’ve just made the case for international law, laws to be respected and enforced in more than one country, so how do you do this without infringing on a country’s sovereign right to govern itself? By establishing the most basic rights that any human being of any nationality should hold whilst in that country and that’s exactly what the European Convention on Human rights does. So do me a favour, if you’re curious or sceptical at all (it’ll take you two minutes), have a look at this link and tell me if you actually disagree with any of those rights. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say on that one.

As for a British bill of rights, are there any rights there that you want to scrap? If there are then we can have that debate and I’ll likely fiercely defend those rights, however if you have more you’d like to add to those or discuss how we could better enforce them, great, I’m all ears, but we already have a 100% British written law to protect British human rights, it’s called the human rights act. So if you want to make it better then I’m all ears, but don’t bash it if you’re not going to tell me what’s wrong with it, it is British rights for British people.

So there we get to the crux of the debate, the rights of undesirables as Theresa May would put it. Before I make many, many comparisons to the Third Reich on this one (thank you Mr MacPhail). People who visit this country have every right to be protected by its laws and that includes their most basic rights as discussed before and before we start complaining about rights to education and voting, I will point out the fact that these rights are again, not absolute, simply coming here from abroad does not entitle you to these rights outright, a couple from Nigeria, or really anywhere else, does not have the right to vote for an MP simply because they come here on a work visa to work without obtaining citizenship, the law differentiates between British Citizens and foreign workers.

The reality of the argument is simply, why do we need a British Bill of Rights, if it would simply duplicate the human rights act? If not, it is better to simply amend it. Unless it is your intention to remove basic human rights from people you don’t happen to like, which is firstly illegal under the European Convention anyway and secondly, immoral to the point of evil. Unless you wish to return to a morality reflective of the time of Apartheid or female subjugation or homosexual persecution, then you cannot tell me that one human being holds more value as a human being than another.

Such an act would never be allowed by Liberal Democrats in government, no matter the media hype. I would never belong to a party that tried. Yes I would resign my party membership over it and I wouldn’t even have to think about it.