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> What's Left of our Human Rights?, Post Abu Qatada, May postures to repeal Human Rights Act
Simon Kirby
post Jul 21 2013, 09:35 PM
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Home Secretary Theresa May said Abu Qatada's removal had taken 12 years and cost over £1.7m in legal fees, and in the wake of the Qatada hoo-ha May repeated her view that the Human Rights Act should be scrapped.

My worry here is that a state that values freedom and liberty shouldn't ever have a problem with the Human Rights Act and the European Convention that it brings into British Law, and if the state is finding the Convention difficult to live with then that really should set some warning bells clanging.

Obviously there were problems: Qatada was imprisoned without charge in the UK for most of the last 11 years, and that can't be right. The essence of the conflict would appear to be that the Convention guarantees a fair trial and does not allow torture, but that's a good thing isn't it? The Convention was drawn up after the Second World War in an attempt to prevent the kind of state brutality that fuelled the conflict and had characterized human civilization since, well, since the first man-monkeys walked out of Africa. Time was that the state could imprison you without trial, though it had become less common since Magna Carta, but the notion that torture wasn't good form was a radical idea of the mid-20th Century. Torture, and the similarly circumscribed Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, have always been popular with the British state in judicial torture, military administrative discipline, wartime terror tactics, and the suppression of civil unrest, and that kind of cultural identity is hard to change in just a few decades. Allegations of brutality by the Home Office or military are still reasonably common, and while that's perhaps the inevitable isolated outworking of psychotic tendencies in stressed individuals under extreme circumstances, sometimes it looks worrying like the routine behaviour in a culture supported by the chain of command.


Various instruments of torture, with the Iron Maiden back right (check out Virtual IX, truly appalling).

So some of the Qatada problem is that the British state hasn't wholly and irreconcilably abandoned torture - in practice mostly, but there's still that quiet private thought that maybe it's not such a bad idea.

But mostly the Qatada problem was that the state administration was rubbish. It really wasn't so very complicated: if he'd committed a crime here then try him on the evidence, and if there isn't enough evidence to try him then let him go, and if you want to extradite him to face trial in Jordan then fine, but you can't do that if he'll face torture there or not receive a fair trial. The problem then is that it took 11 years to work through the details of this - the Convention didn't change in this time, it simply took the state 11 years to figure out what to do. That's the problem here, the interminable delay in state administration.

So anywho, more generally, other than the Article 8 right to respect for private and family life that has created some unintuitive results, I find the Convention rights to be nothing more than reasonable, and I am seriously worried when the state finds those really rather minimal rights to be awkward enough to want to abandon the Convention. I might hope that Joe Public wouldn't let this happen, but that's why I worry so much - the press have done such a good hatchet job on the Convention rights than the man in the street positively reviles the Human Rights Act like it's some kind of criminals' and parasites' charter. Oh wait, lookie:

QUOTE (Daily Mail)
Human rights is a charter for criminals and parasites
So it's true then.

But if I just wipe away the spume for a moment, it's worth looking at the rights that we're in danger of losing.

  • The right to life – protects your life, by law. The state is required to investigate suspicious deaths and deaths in custody.
  • The prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment – you should never be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way, no matter what the situation.
  • Protection against slavery and forced labour – you should not be treated like a slave or subjected to forced labour.
  • The right to liberty and freedom – you have the right to be free and the state can only imprison you with very good reason – for example, if you are convicted of a crime.
  • The right to a fair trial and no punishment without law - you are innocent until proven guilty. If accused of a crime, you have the right to hear the evidence against you, in a court of law.
  • Respect for privacy and family life and the right to marry – protects against unnecessary surveillance or intrusion into your life. You have the right to marry and raise a family.
  • Freedom of thought, religion and belief – you can believe what you like and practise your religion or beliefs.
  • Free speech and peaceful protest – you have a right to speak freely and join with others peacefully, to express your views.
  • No discrimination – everyone’s rights are equal. You should not be treated unfairly – because, for example, of your gender, race, sexuality, religion or age.
  • Protection of property, the right to an education and the right to free elections – protects against state interference with your possessions; means that no child can be denied an education and that elections must be free and fair.


Can you really say that for your freedom and liberty that any of those rights are excessive or burdensome on the state? Or turned the other way round, can you think of a legitimate reason why the state would want to deny you any of those rights, or why any of those rights would conflict with a legitimate act of the state?


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NWNREADER
post Jul 21 2013, 10:07 PM
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Why would stepping out of the umbrella wash away those rights?
The UK stance is we comply in any case, so to be told we do not by others (who are often no better) sticks in the craw.
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Andy Capp
post Jul 21 2013, 11:18 PM
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In my view it is money well spent, it shows 'we' will not give up, regardless of the cost.
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Simon Kirby
post Jul 22 2013, 06:56 AM
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QUOTE (NWNREADER @ Jul 21 2013, 11:07 PM) *
Why would stepping out of the umbrella wash away those rights?
The UK stance is we comply in any case, so to be told we do not by others (who are often no better) sticks in the craw.

What if the state chooses to behave unlawfully and ignores your rights? Without the Human Rights Act you have no way of insisting that the state respect your rights - it is the HRA that creates those rights, so absent the HRA you don't have those rights any longer. If the state is happy to respect your Convention rights why would the state want to repeal the Human Rights Act?


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Nothing Much
post Jul 22 2013, 12:08 PM
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Whilst all the details of the HRA as Simon Kirby quoted seem reasonable, and most states could hardly disagree.
HMG would not wish to become a pariah state,so to all intents and purposes it all boils down to the French and their
interpretation that La France is a secular state and religion is secondary.

Nothing is mentioned of the manipulation by warlords in Whitehall. There are 2 pieces online in The Telegraph.July 22nd.
One by Andrew Gilligan on the 10 years since Dr Kelly and the dodgy dossier days. The other by a close friend
complaining that the Hutton report was such an incompetent piece of work that it has led to 10 years of distress
to the family and others by conspiracy theorists. I am not sure where these 2 failings fall in the list of possible
state abuse. Arrogance and Incompetence.

Yes I have done my bit to annoy the "Big Society" by cutting up my Nectar and Tesco clubcards.
ce
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Squelchy
post Jul 22 2013, 12:34 PM
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Makes it very difficult for us to have a pop at another county's human rights record if we don't subscribe to it ourselves.
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On the edge
post Jul 22 2013, 02:40 PM
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Read the HR act and most find it quite reasonable. As ever much comes down to interpretation and our interpreters have always been pretty poor at that. I for one wouldn't want to live in a Daily Mail Ideal World.


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NWNREADER
post Jul 22 2013, 05:17 PM
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QUOTE (On the edge @ Jul 22 2013, 03:40 PM) *
Read the HR act and most find it quite reasonable. As ever much comes down to interpretation and our interpreters have always been pretty poor at that. I for one wouldn't want to live in a Daily Mail Ideal World.

Recent issues have not been about the UK Law - The Human Rights Act - but the European Convention on Human Rights and the decisions of its' judiciary.
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Simon Kirby
post Jul 22 2013, 07:17 PM
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QUOTE (NWNREADER @ Jul 22 2013, 06:17 PM) *
Recent issues have not been about the UK Law - The Human Rights Act - but the European Convention on Human Rights and the decisions of its' judiciary.

Yes, I would deny the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. It makes sense that there is a common Convention insomuch as we share common attitudes to human dignity, liberty and freedom (which in truth we don't, but we won't go there), and the European Convention on Human Rights serves well enough, though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights might also have been a good choice, but British courts should be the final arbiter of British law, and there shouldn't be any higher authority in a sovereign state.

My major gripe with the rights guaranteed by the Human Rights Act is that unless you're supported by a special interest group you have no practical way of enforcing your rights if the state wilfully chooses to deny you them. That's not to say I despise the individuals who are fortunate enough to find help and support in enforcing their rights, because their situations are likely pretty miserable and their need great, and it is an intolerable injustice that the state should choose not to respect those rights, but I want everyone to have their rights and not just a select few - Article 14 of the Convention even requires the state to make that so!

I would make it a criminal offence for the state to violate a citizen's human rights, and then I would let the Police and CPS take the lead in enforcing those rights. I wouldn't expect Joe Public to mount a private prosecution if someone stole his mobile phone or kicked his front door in, and neither do I see why the private citizen should have to challenge the state himself to assert his human rights.


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On the edge
post Jul 22 2013, 07:46 PM
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QUOTE (NWNREADER @ Jul 22 2013, 06:17 PM) *
Recent issues have not been about the UK Law - The Human Rights Act - but the European Convention on Human Rights and the decisions of its' judiciary.


The convention is for the most part reasonable. We are also members of this organisation and have rights of appeal. Our Government also has difficulties with our own judiciary when it makes unpopular decisions. What are you suggesting - get rid of judicial independence? Frankly, I'd much rather see a few soft legal decisions than an all powerful executive. President Blair - wouldn't he have just loved that!


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Andy Capp
post Jul 22 2013, 09:54 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Jul 22 2013, 08:17 PM) *
I would make it a criminal offence for the state to violate a citizen's human rights, and then I would let the Police and CPS take the lead in enforcing those rights. I wouldn't expect Joe Public to mount a private prosecution if someone stole his mobile phone or kicked his front door in, and neither do I see why the private citizen should have to challenge the state himself to assert his human rights.

Sounds good in theory, but people would soon start monopolising their plight and become vexatious! I understand there is already a huge back log in Europe.
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Darren
post Jul 23 2013, 01:50 AM
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QUOTE (NWNREADER @ Jul 21 2013, 11:07 PM) *
Why would stepping out of the umbrella wash away those rights?
The UK stance is we comply in any case, so to be told we do not by others (who are often no better) sticks in the craw.


One more reason that we are better than the French, Germans. Greek etc.
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Simon Kirby
post Jul 23 2013, 06:46 AM
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QUOTE (Andy Capp @ Jul 22 2013, 10:54 PM) *
Sounds good in theory, but people would soon start monopolising their plight and become vexatious! I understand there is already a huge back log in Europe.

Hardly. That doesn't happen with other crime - the Police have a well-established process for dealing with just this problem and can even charge you with wasting their time.

Yes, Europe does indeed have a ridiculous back-log, and that ineffective administration of justice is yet another reason to look at better ways of enforcing human rights.


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Ruwan Uduwerage-...
post Jul 24 2013, 07:02 AM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Jul 22 2013, 08:17 PM) *
I would make it a criminal offence for the state to violate a citizen's human rights, and then I would let the Police and CPS take the lead in enforcing those rights.


Simon, what a novel idea, the police and criminal justice system acting as guardians of human rights!

I am pretty sure from my policing days, that they are meant to be, but sadly at times fail in this role miserably. But there again this failure to protect human rights was and has been driven by the immediate past, and the current government.
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On the edge
post Jul 24 2013, 11:09 AM
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You are quite right. The Police as Constables swear an oath to keep the Queens peace, which is actually very different from simply enforcing the law or implementing the command of the executive. The Crown and the separation of powers is the guardian of our rights. Wholly agree that of late, these precious freedoms and antidotes have been seriously eroded. Time we started to row back!

At base level, our Magistrates (our peers) tried cases on the basis of fairness and not strict application of law. I trust they are still really accountable to the Crown and not the Government's 'law officer'. It really is high time we all started to remember we DO have a constitution, which enshrines our rights and privileges.

I'd like to see the restoration of the Sovereigns coat of arms behind the Chair at Council Meetings. It was there to remind Councillors and Officials that they are not the ultimate authority.


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Andy Capp
post Jul 24 2013, 03:36 PM
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Do you have an example?
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Nothing Much
post Jul 24 2013, 04:23 PM
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The original coat of arms was designed for medieval battle purposes and has evolved over time to indicate the identity of a person or an institution. In current times, the closest thing to a coat of arms is the modern corporate logo. (From Archives web pages)
Network Rail?
Thames Water?
Morrisons?
ce
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Simon Kirby
post Jul 24 2013, 07:41 PM
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QUOTE (On the edge @ Jul 24 2013, 12:09 PM) *
You are quite right. The Police as Constables swear an oath to keep the Queens peace, which is actually very different from simply enforcing the law or implementing the command of the executive. The Crown and the separation of powers is the guardian of our rights. Wholly agree that of late, these precious freedoms and antidotes have been seriously eroded. Time we started to row back!

At base level, our Magistrates (our peers) tried cases on the basis of fairness and not strict application of law. I trust they are still really accountable to the Crown and not the Government's 'law officer'. It really is high time we all started to remember we DO have a constitution, which enshrines our rights and privileges.

I'd like to see the restoration of the Sovereigns coat of arms behind the Chair at Council Meetings. It was there to remind Councillors and Officials that they are not the ultimate authority.

The town council, county council, parliament, and the sovereign all use the same item as a symbol of authority - a ceremonial mace. It's a symbol of authority because, ultimately, it's the weapon of choice for violent oppression by shear brute force.

Contrast that with the vision of the republican Levellers of the civil war era, expressed in their Agreement of the People for a Firm and Present Peace upon Grounds of Common Right and Freedom: "Article IV. That the power of this [parliament], and all future Representatives of this nation is inferior only to theirs who choose them...". The idea of this declaration were the foundation of the American Declaration of Independence, and the notion of the government being subservient to the people is most concisely expressed in Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people".

The notion of a state built on grounds of common right and freedom is really an old idea, certainly from before Alfred who codified what was already the common law, at least the bits of the common law that he liked. The law was still subordinate to Alfred and it took another 350 years before Magna Carta started the change of making the King subordinate to the Law which was very much at issue another 450 years later in the Civil War, and 350 years after that there is still resistance to the notion of a state built on [i]grounds of common right and freedom[i], with the Human Rights Act threatened with repeal by a state that finds our rights inconvenient.


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NWNREADER
post Jul 24 2013, 07:44 PM
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I do not know of any intent for the UK HRA to be repealed. As previously commented, the upset is with the European Court interpretation of our national standards......
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Andy Capp
post Jul 24 2013, 07:49 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Jul 24 2013, 08:41 PM) *
... the Human Rights Act threatened with repeal by a state that finds our rights inconvenient.

And by many who believe that fairness be applied depending on who deserves it. It is usually a populist examples (e.g. Islamist terrorists) that incites resentment of the HRA.
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