Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Human Rights Act

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian covered the threat to the Human Rights Act. It was as follows:

The Human Rights Act received Royal Assent in 1998 and came into force in October 2000. An important piece of legislation, it incorporated the rights contained within the European Convention on Human Rights directly into British law.

The Convention itself had been produced in the years immediately following the Second World War by the Council of Europe – the leading human rights body across the continent.

The Council of Europe is backed by 47 different member-states, all of which have signed up the Convention which promotes “human rights, democracy and the rule of law.” It should not be confused with the European Union (presently made up of 28 member-states) and it is my understanding that the referendum vote to leave the EU will not impact on the UK’s membership of the Council.

In my view, the European Convention and the UK’s Human Rights Act are extremely important, safeguarding the rights and freedoms of ordinary people.These include the right to life, the prohibition of torture, protection against slavery, the right to a fair trial, respect for privacy and family life, freedom of thought and religion and belief, the right to free speech and peaceful protest, the protection of property, the right to an education, the right to free elections, and an end to discrimination.

British people should be extremely proud of the UK’s role in bringing this European Convention to fruition. This involved many lawyers from the United Kingdom and the committee which drafted the document was even chaired by David Patrick Maxwell Fyfe, a prominent Conservative politician who, as well as serving as Attorney General and Home Secretary had been one of the prosecuters at the Nuremberg Trials in the late 1940s.

And here in Cornwall, we should not forget that it was through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities that the UK Government finally recognised the Cornish as a national group, pledging equality with the Welsh and Scottish.

But it is worrying that the Conservative Party is continuing to talk up proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a weaker and less-encompassing “British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.”

The independent organisation Liberty is one of many groups campaigning to defend the Human Rights Act which it says “protects all of us – young and old, rich and poor,” and has brought together over one hundred organisations to fight the proposals.

These groups include a wide range of “charities supporting children, older people, carers, victims of trafficking and slavery, disabled people and asylum-seekers and refugees, as well as national groups representing psychiatrists, teachers, football supporters and students.”

I stand with Liberty and believe that we should do our utmost to protect the European Convention and the Human Rights Act.

No comments: