The Commission on a UK Bill of Rights was set up by our government in March in order to explore the need/reason/point of a UK Bill of Rights, to support or supplant the European Convention on Human Rights. I’m still trying to decide my opinion on this matter…
The European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act (1998) which enshrines it in British law are currently the main examples of Human Rights law in the UK. The Convention (ECHR) has come under a lot of fire, however, with many saying that it shouldn’t defend the rights of certain people – for example the debate on prisoners from a few months ago.
Of course it should defend prisoners. Human Rights must cover all people, all humans, otherwise it weakens the very concept. If we decide tomorrow that prisoners and terrorists do not deserve the protection of human rights., then where does it end? Those merely suspected of terrorism will soon loose protection. Or not only dangerous criminals, but all criminals – those convicted of traffic or blue collar offences. What about when someone decides that it’s suddenly acceptable to limit freedom of assembly? What about the day that we decide that Jews or Muslims do not warrant the protection of human rights? What will happen then? No, we need human rights to apply to all humans, no matter their acts or crimes. We must accepted that human rights are universal, or else loose them.
Oh and by the way – tabloid press, please remember that the ECHR has nothing to do with the European Union. Please get it right.
I’m undecided about the need for a British bill of rights. I believe wholeheartedly that the Strasbourg court is sufficient, and I dislike nationalist arguments that a British bill would be better. If we did indeed have a codified protection of human rights, beyond the Convention and our various laws, I could only agree with it complementing the Convention, not supplanting it. Protecting rights that we hold dear, that the ECHR does not look at – like further protection for same-sex marriage, and a lack of compulsory military service.
Disclaimer – Please bear in mind, I’m no lawyer. If I have made any factual errors, feel free to contact me with advice on corrections.