No need to wait for Xmas. Westminster provides panto all year round. In the latest production the wicked witch of Strasbourg casts a spell giving prisoners the vote. Prime Minister David Cameron can only save Little England from the Europeans by sacrificing precious British values.
Liberals agonise over the thought that David will have to jettison the Human Rights Act – which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law – to save sovereignty, the supremacy of parliament and the independence of the judiciary. The tabloids are terrified that David might lose his nerve.
The UK Constitutional Law Association blog has invited comment on the Government’s proposal to repeal and replace the Act. One enthusiastic response begins thus: “The animated debate over the future of the Human Rights Act is, in many respects, a sign of a flourishing democracy and a widely shared commitment to human rights and the rule of law.” This is at best wishful thinking.
Marco Duranti has shown that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg was always intended to be anti-democratic and “still safeguards civil liberties and property rights to a greater extent than social rights”. British conservatives played a pivotal role in establishing the court. Their purpose in short was to constrain any populist impulse towards socialism at home. “The question that confronts all Europeans is whether these checks on majority rule in the name of protecting democracy and human rights have gone too far.” Millions in Greece -reduced to desperate poverty by the exercise of the human rights of the powerful – would answer yes. So would those who marched against austerity in Liverpool, London and Glasgow.
Law lecturer Merris Amos exposes the hypocrisy. She analyses the five examples of Strasbourg decisions cited to support the Government’s proposals. These judgments relate to prisoner voting, artificial insemination rights for some prisoners; limits on the deportation of foreign nationals generally (and specifically for committing crimes) and whole life tariffs for murderers. She also analyses the eight judgments given in 2013 in which the court found the UK had violated Convention rights. Unsurprisingly there is little to justify the government’s claims and a lot to support her view that politicians and the media are whipping up an irrational storm whilst hiding the truth.
The war currently being waged on human rights law is an inevitable offshoot of the long standing “wars” on terror, crime, drugs and illegal immigration. It is just too tempting for governments waging these wars to maximise the political mileage by also engaging in warfare against whatever can be utilised in resistance including human rights law, international human rights supervision, and access to justice.
Amos also notes that in recent years the number of UK applications actually considered by the Strasbourg court have fallen dramatically. The vast majority are declared inadmissible or struck out. Meanwhile fellow law professor Helen Fenwick suggests the court may be intent on appeasing certain signatory states like the UK.
I have earlier reported my disappointment at the dismissal of my application –Maistry v UK (2014) – by the court and the remarkable fact that it does not have to give reasons. The dispute highlights the myth of freedom of thought and conscience even within the BBC which publicly promotes the most elevated ethical and editorial standards. Statements made by the BBC Management Board proving my claim have been ignored both by the courts in Britain and the European Court of Human Rights. The judgment of Lord Justice Underhill confirms the UK is in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights in failing to afford protection to freedom of thought and conscience. The message is clear. Speak out at your peril.
I suspect that David is ungratefully demonising a court which courteously blocks applications that may be inconvenient or embarrassing for his government and the establishment. With the cult of amorality now firmly entrenched he no longer needs ‘human rights’ to window-dress a barren democracy. Party propaganda is more important and there is nothing to lose as Britain slouches towards fascism.
Human rights have outlived their usefulness as a domestic distraction. Now even organisations like Amnesty International stand accused of regarding human rights simply as a flag of convenience for humanitarian intervention and war. Professor John McMurtry describes how a similar mentality invaded the prestigious ‘Science for Peace’ forum in Canada undermining long held principles of science and value.
How could such an organization become led into a propagandist framework of war in the name of “science” and “peace”? The story is a kind of allegory of our age. It shows how a dominant culture of denial, personal diversions, and forgetting can fatuate even an organization in scientific cause against war, propaganda and crimes against humanity. As so often elsewhere, it shows how a central administration can reverse constitutional goals by rubber-stamped steps of executive privilege which exactly fit to the surrounding public ignorance and indoctrination. Just as our universities themselves have been hijacked by a collaborator class to serve business ideology and profits, so too can its public-affairs leadership and concepts of war and peace be hijacked the same way.
Perhaps the UKCLA blog will host a debate on human rights in this wider perspective. Its only purpose will be to save us from the unimaginable horror of a third world war. Those who remain immune to the elegance – and beauty – of refined legal argument might prefer these blunt propositions which Professor McMurtry argues are unimpeachable on scientific grounds.
Whenever any nation has an independent government with fossil fuel, financial, agricultural or strategic resources not yet subjugated to transnational corporate control, there is a US-led campaign to destroy it. Where is there exception? There is none evident…Yet the master tactic of the system and its collaborators is to erase from view all such crimes of war that verified evidence points to, and to do so all the way down to people’s memories and bodies of the crimes. No-one can deny this underlying law at work by scientific disconfirmation. Apparent exceptions merely put the blame on others or lower ranks. This institutional disorder is built into the corporate globalization system. The complementary second law is: to divert all attention to the official enemy instead as the pretext for more war criminal aggressions. Again, try to think of exception.
There are no exceptions.These are the human rites we bequeath – for all our cleverness – to the next generation without a qualm.