Human rights and the UK supreme court - Amnesty comment ahead of Parliamentary debate
Commenting ahead of tomorrow's (Thursday 30th June) Scottish Government Debate 'The Role of the Supreme Court in Scots Criminal Law' John Watson, Programme Director of Amnesty in Scotland, said: "In Scotland we have a strong human rights culture that values principles of fairness and equality and it is vital that human rights do not become the 'whipping boy' in the current debate of the role of the UK Supreme Court within Scots Law. It is the mechanism by which these rights are translated into practice and the interpretations made by particular courts which are being disputed - not the rights themselves. "The rights outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are deeply entrenched within the Scotland Act, and it is imperative that as a party to the ECHR, there must be a guarantee of an effective domestic remedy for violations of these rights. Any discussion of the reform of the Court system in Scotland, including the system of appeals, must ensure that people in Scotland are not discriminated against. Were Scotland to break ties with the UK Supreme Court, Scots would have one less right of appeal than the rest of the UK. If such a change is proposed then it must be accompanied by a discussion of what replacement would ensure that Scots are not unfairly disadvantaged. "It is unfortunate that most public, or even political, engagement with the ECHR centres around criminal cases, leading to the misleading and damaging assumption that human rights exist principally to benefit those who have perpetrated crimes. On the contrary, the rights in the ECHR have benefitted people from all walks of life including patients in care homes, victims of stalking, harassment and domestic abuse, Children's rights with special educational needs and peaceful protestors."