LibLink: Lord Anthony Lester: With human rights under threat, there is a pressing need to celebrate Human Rights Day

For Human Rights Day, Anthony Lester wrote for the Huffington Post. He addressed criticisms of it made in the media:

Last week The Times ran an editorial calling on Parliament to “end the absurdities of the Human Rights Act”. It argued that the Human Rights Act is redundant because “the country of Locke and Blackstone already had an unmatched body of law to protect the truly vulnerable”. That is surprising given the many cases where our law failed to do just that. As a barrister, I have represented newspapers on many occasions using the Human Rights Act and the Convention to vindicate free speech and freedom of the press – including when the government sought to prevent The Times from reporting on a public health tragedy. European oversight also protected the rights of gay servicemen and women at a time when Britain expelled them from armed forces solely because of their sexuality. It has protected the rights of parents and children, including when a Local Authority sought to end a mother’s access to her child. We rely on the Human Rights Act, the Convention and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to protect everyone, popular and reviled, against abuses of public power. They are the bedrock of a democracy based on the rule of law and our common humanity and dignity.

He then looked at the possible dangers of tampering with the HRA:

Human rights NGOs warn that any attempt to replace the Human Rights Act with a British restatement of civil and political rights and liberties is fraught with danger. They fear that a British Bill of Rights might be used as a way to deprive victims of the right to seek redress from Strasbourg. Their fears are not fanciful – especially given Britain’s uncertain future in or outside the European Union and the way Ministers play cat and mouse with the public. A homegrown Bill of Rights would make sense only as part of a new constitutional settlement – and only if its protections were at least as strong as they are now. The Justice Secretary has the benefit of the Bill of Rights Commission’s report. We consulted all four corners of the UK and were clear in our report that “any future debate on a UK Bill of Rights must be acutely sensitive to issues of devolution and, in the case of Scotland, to possible independence, and it must involve the devolved administrations.” To endure, constitutional reform must be undertaken slowly and with wide consensus. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

You can read his whole article here.

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  • Richard Underhill 11th Dec '15 - 8:25pm

    Add to the Human Rights Act, do not subtract from it.

  • Katerina Porter 12th Dec '15 - 11:11am

    The European Court in Strasbourg was created by the Council of Europe in 1950 and being a signatory of the Convention is obligatory for members. Are we contemplating leaving the Council of Europe too?

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