Are the Tory’s Toying with Human Rights?

The Conservative Party conference in Manchester took place over four days and drew to a close this Wednesday. Perhaps most notable to readers of this magazine will be what was said (and implied), on Monday regarding Britain’s involvement in the European Convention of Human Rights. Some voices within the party, including Home Secretary Theresa May, have expressed interest in withdrawing from the ECHR altogether.

“What we need to do is look and think what is the outcome we want. I’m less interested in which convention we are signed up to.” – David Cameron, BBC 1 Andrew Marr Show.

With the above statement and more made during the course of the Conservative Party conference, it was made clear to those present that national security is of the utmost importance and perhaps worth reconsidering involvement in the European Convention of Human Rights. However, is this necessarily a movement away from a consideration of human rights altogether? Perhaps not –there has been talk of a ‘British Bill of Rights’.

Whilst purely speculative, a British Bill of Rights would allow the British government participation in the ECHR, but the British Bill in itself would seemingly not be subjected to European state involvement. There are implications that this would replace the Human Rights Act of 1998. Would a system this one-sided work, with no other states allowed input on ‘British matters’? This brings into question the implications of withdrawing from regional conventions.

However, perhaps media reports have sensationalised the impacts of Cameron’s comments. In effect, it appears that the Conservatives have called for a re-thinking of legislation in order to accommodate immediate needs of the British people. Most important of which they deem to be the safety of the British public, for which Cameron is willing to do ‘whatever it takes’ –even the consideration of removing Britain from involvement with the ECHR altogether. Such involvement has, in the past, led to difficulties deporting those deemed to be dangerous criminals. Other criticisms from the Conservative government have included the example of convicted rapist Spencer Mellors grant of £4,000 compensation when his second appeal was delayed. Replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights is said to enable less manipulation of the system as well as increased journalistic freedom.

“I’m less interested in which convention we are signed up to. As Prime Minister, I want to know can I keep our country safe. So, for instance, are we able to chuck out of our country people who have no right to be here, who threaten our country? I say we should be able to do that.” – David Cameron, Conservative Party Conference, Manchester 2013.

Cameron has made clear to his fellow party member that such an approach may only be adopted following the election of an independent Conservative government, and not with the Liberal Democrat coalition government of today. What is of vital importance is that the principles of universally acknowledged human rights are upheld by all member states of the United Nations. However, it remains to be seen whether human rights can, in reality, be truly universal.

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