In his recent column, Nick Boles argues that the Conservatives proposals on scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a home grown Bill of Rights is a measure that will challenge the situation as he describes it ‘that human rights have become an elastic concept, exploited by ingenious lawyers and foreign judges, to stop the deportation of foreign terrorists and criminals.’
This is such a mendacious statement that it is difficult to know where to start in critiquing it .
Firstly, under the Human Rights Act 1998 most cases are now heard by domestic courts and then the Supreme Court, so are actually heard by British judges. Therefore, less cases are being heard in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg – which itself includes British judges.
Secondly, the number of foreign criminals that have successfully used Article 8, ‘the right to family life’ to resist deportation is very low; the test of this is quite strict and given that over half of foreign criminals in the UK are from EU states they would use EU law rather Human Rights law to be able to remain. Overall, according to the National Audit Office, only 1 in 7 foreign criminals are granted the right to remain. (2013\14) However, these figures do not tell us how many were from the EU and on what grounds they won their appeals. Indeed, there is a striking lack of data on appeals against deportations and the outcomes.
Nick states that he believes in the ‘rights of every human being’. However, it is clear from his government’s shameful stoking of xenophobic hysteria on deporting foreign criminals – most cases have nothing to do with the Human Rights Act but are more often to do with the ineptitude of the Home Office to complete on deportation orders – that the new Bill of Rights will make a distinction between the rights of UK citizens and the rights of others.
In other words, this is not about human rights at all. Human Rights by definition belong to all humans regardless of who they are, where they have come from or what they have done.
As established by philosophers such as Locke, these rights are universal and inalienable. The idea that government’s can pick or choose who has rights is, in effect, the actions of a tyrant.
The concept of a European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), protected by a court constrained by no state or government is a legacy of Winston Churchill and others who endured the war in Europe and the terrible reality of governments and states choosing who has rights and who does not. For our government to ignore this legacy, withdraw from ECHR and strip away the universal application of human rights is shameful.
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