The dangers of scrapping the Human Rights Act
At a fundamental level, human rights are an assertion of protection from the government and a claim for the protection of the government. Power has the potential for good and ill, which is why power must be regulated and laden with responsibility. Christopher Grayling’s proposals for the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights are, in many ways, a case of “trust me, I’m a Minister”.
States around the world, many with more balanced political systems than our own, enshrine human rights standards in constitutions and Bills of Rights that are intended to stand above the shifting palette of party political fortune. In the United Kingdom, with a constitution to be divined rather than read, the European Court and its judgements have been a fundamental source of human rights protection for us all.
I doubt that the attack on human rights proposed today will affect me personally. Provided, that is, I remain of sound mind, enjoy good health until I die and other good fortune besides. Clearly, I hope my children and their children will be similarly blessed.
Others won’t be. The verbiage that sets out the proposals inevitably puts up the usual bogies that are all too easily derided and dismissed – foreign criminals, hate preachers and Travellers amongst them. I fear that there’s a big ‘who else?’ in the background – even if the current government is self-effacing enough to confine its public ire to a limited but headline-grabbing few.
Perhaps most worryingly, by claiming the right of “trust me”, the proposals deliberately try to undermine a continent-wide source of redress and hope. The system isn’t perfect, the European Court isn’t perfect and some of its judgements are challenging – for organisations like Amnesty, as well as the UK government. However, its decisions and their complex relationship with domestic courts are a tangible protection for men and women in the darker places of Europe. Protection that today’s proposals would irreparably harm but cannot replace.
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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.