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Monday, February 06, 2023

Tory MPs pushing to leave the European Convention on Human Rights

The Guardian reports that a number of Conservative MPs are pushing for a commitment to be included in their manifesto at the next General Election to leave Churchill's European Convention on Human Rights.

Not every Tory MP agrees however. Sir Bob Neill, Tory chair of the Commons justice committee, is reported as saying: “If Conservatives don’t believe in the rule of law, what do we believe in? Are we going to put ourselves in the same company as Russia and Belarus?” 

While others who would be likely to baulk at the idea of leaving the convention include the development minister, Andrew Mitchell, and the former justice secretary Robert Buckland.

This latest development is linked to legal action challenging the government's policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a state that has had more than its fair share of human rights contraventions. But it has wider implications for the rest of us, especially in light of moves by the alleged bully, Dominic Raab to replace human rights legislation with a watered down bill of rights.

It is worth reproducing a Twitter thread by Martha Spurrier, the Director of Liberty, from last June on the implications of this particular legislation. She says that Raab's bill:

1. Enshrines the toxic idea of rights being conditional on good behaviour. Rights become gifts the state can take away if it deems you to be troublesome. This means impunity for rights abuses, particularly against people in prison, police custody, protestors.

2. Strips family life rights for migrants (Article 8). People who commit a crime will be deported unless it would cause their child/dependent "overwhelming, unavoidable harm". You could grow up here, have your whole family here, a life here, and still be put on a plane. This cruel, racist move despite the fact that only 7.8% of criminal deportation cases successfully rely on Article 8. Those few cases are a necessary judicial safety net to prevent extremely disproportionate removals.

3. Prevents courts from putting legal obligations on the state "to actively protect someone's human rights" (yep, that's a direct quote). Farewell to the only legal tools available to the Hillsborough families, survivors of Worboys attacks, patients at risk of suicide and many more.

4. Stops human rights claims being brought against military operations. Rights abuses committed in war (like torture of civilian Baha Mousa by UK troops) will go unpunished. Members of armed forces (like victims of Snatch Land Rover disaster) will be unprotected.

5. Creates a procedural barrier to justice - you have to get permission before you can bring a human rights case, demonstrating you've suffered "significant disadvantage". Supposedly to deal with "trivial human rights claims" which is of course a contradiction in terms.

6. Scraps Rule 39 meaning the European Court of Human Rights can't intervene on a temporary, exceptional, emergency basis to avert "a real risk of serious and irreversible harm" ie Gov to have license to put people at risk of serious and irreversible harm.

7. Commits to staying in the European Convention on Human Rights. But the Bill of Rights is a weaker, watered down imitation of the Convention, and Council of Europe may expel us for failing to protect rights. That would put us in the company of Russia.

That last point was made of course before Tory MPs decided that they prefer Putin's way of doing things.

Churchill worked with others to set up the convention on human rights to prevent Europe once more suffering millions of innocent people targetted, tortured, abused and murdered purely because of their religion, heritage and sexuality amongst many other stated reasons.

His succesors in the Tory Party don't appear to have an issue with abandoning that objective.

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