Historic turning point in Human Rights
In “A Brief History of Human Rights” The Magna Carta is described as “arguably the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today in the English-speaking world. In 1215, after King John of England violated a number of ancient laws and customs by which England had been governed, his subjects forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which enumerates what later came to be thought of as human rights.”
As we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta it is ironic that changes are afoot to change, some would say remove, our human rights……
Remove the rights we, in Britain, take for granted.
Winston Churchill wanted to safeguard human rights after the World War Two and the European Convention on Human Rights came from his desire to enthrone human rights. It was drafted by British lawyers.
However, todays Conservative party has other ideas.
The Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto states: “The next Conservative government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights and make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.”
The Conservative Government won the election, although only 25 % of the electorate voted for them and so, they believe they have the mandate to remove the fundamental rights of protection.
Not everyone agrees.
There are calls that such an important change to our rights and our freedoms, requires the matter to be decided by the people in a national referendum. Petitions are gaining ground, such as “We call on the Government and the Prime Minister to provide a national referendum on the planned abolition of the Human Rights Act.”
Amnesty internationals have a similar petition, pointing out that “Every single one of us is protected by the Human Rights Act – but right now, it’s in serious danger. Don’t let universal freedoms turn into privileges for a chosen few.” and 38 Degrees petition urges “Save our Human Rights”
What do politician’s think?
First Minister Carwyn Jones warned that scrapping the Human Rights Act would “make us look like a banana republic”, .
While David Mundell, the new Scottish secretary, told BBC Scotland that the UK government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act would apply to Scotland, the Scottish government said it would “robustly oppose” withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Scotland Act (1998) states all legislation passed by Holyrood must be compatible with the ECHR.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the protection of human rights was a key principle underpinning the 1998 peace agreement and the Irish Government said it was determined to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement.
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has questioned what the Conservative Party is trying to achieve through its plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights. There is even the risk of a rebellion, within the conservative ranks, by the Runnymede Tories.
We should stop being distracted by talk about the proposed EU referendum sometime in the future and concentrate on safeguarding our human rights that are up for negotiation NOW.