What next for the UK parliament joint committee on human rights? | Colin Murray | Law | guardian.co.uk.
The Human Rights Act 1998.
There are certain rights and freedoms that are central to our nation’s identity as a free and democratic society. The protection of those rights is paramount to the preservation of our status and reputation. Our freedom and rights have been long fought for so they must be protected and improved upon. This is essential if we are to avoid a regression and what was must never forget is that with individual rights, comes personal responsibility.
“That kind of thinking is behind the statement that rights and responsibilities go together. The whole system of respecting rights works best when people recognise that and act responsibly towards others and the wider community.”
The European Convention of Human Rights is a binding agreement. The UK, as one of its builders, has sought to comply with it for over fifty years. Both civil and political rights have been outlined and explained but what is odd is that the ECHR has not always been a part of UK law. Use of the convention in any respect meant a costly and time-consuming hearing in the European Court of Human Rights. The Human Rights Act came into force Under the Labour Party in October 2000 and has made the ECHR enforceable in British courts. It gives a clear and unbiased description of basic rights and works alongside the ECHR to respect the rights of both individuals and the collective community. What we must me clear on is that the rights of the individual do not supersede nor are undermined by the rights of the wider society. An individual who uses their individual right of expression to promote violence or hatred toward another person or group should expect to be prevented from doing so as they are violating that person’s right to feel safe. The expression of a particular group’s personal views and ethos in public must be balanced against an individual right to privacy. One cannot expect the victim of a violent crime to be subject to questioning from the perpetrator. These rules have been laid down for a reason and that is to protect those who for whatever reason, have been injured or discriminated against. What is sad is that we have had to make laws at all when consideration, courtesy, common sense and ordinary decency should have made them redundant by now.
“The Human Rights Act is a major shift in the way our political and legal system works. Before the Act, our law did not spell out in so many words that public authorities and courts had to respect ECHR rights; and the courts would only look at the ECHR in exceptional cases, for example if UK legislation was unclear.”
In the interest of the wider community, combating crime and the promotion of healthy living habits are both sensible goals but at what cost? Those we point the finger of blame for their self-made misfortunes are also forfeiting their claim to personal responsibility as adults e.g suing tobacco companies when they get cancer, fast food chains when they get fat, or the local council or their employer when they are injured while doing something that is just plain bloody stupid. If common sense is not enough to tell you NOT to do something then it’s your own silly fault. There are instances when something has been done to us deliberately and maliciously. In those cases outside parties to go out of our way ‘not to judge’. Well sod that for a game of soldiers! If some workshy lay about has the energy to rob some poor old lady at knife point in her own home (rather than go and look for work), what more should they expect than a phone call and basic food and water? If a woman is raped, the defence solicitor will ask what she was wearing, if she was drinking and look into her past. When we are victims of theft in our homes the first thing people ask is how they got in as. Why has that got any baring on the matter in hand? In these cases the rights of the victim and wider community certainly take precedence over those of the perpetrator. The act of human rights is what should make sure that happens.
“The Human Rights Act ensures that these important ideas, and the supporting judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, are fully available to our courts. It also ensures that Parliament has to reflect carefully, in considering proposed legislation, on the difficult question of where the balance lies between the individual’s rights and the needs of the wider community.”
There seems also to be a popular trend among an increasing proportion of the UK public who are more than ready to shout about their rights being violated but unwilling – if not unable- to see where their perceived right to act or behave in a certain manner impinges on the rights of others. Those refuse to see that they have a personal responsibility of consideration to others are wilfully abdicating from their role as responsible citizens. For example, blasting music so loudly that none of you neighbours can get away from it. Our children have a right not to be forced to partake in a daily act of specifically Christian worship or indoctrinated by visitors to the school. To expect a child of five or six to choose a religious position before they are armed with the facts is as ridiculous as expecting them to align themselves with specific a political ethos. How many of us would sign a contact of employment without reading it?
The New Committee.
The committee was set up in the wake of the Human Rights Act 1998 coming into force and was intended to fulfil the role of parliamentary watchdog to oversee the compatibility of legislation and government acts within human rights norms. It aimed also to monitor steps taken by government to conform to judicial decisions highlighting breaches of human rights by the United Kingdom.
“What is wrong is the way that political leaders of all persuasions rush to judgment on human rights legislation. The Human Rights Act, like “Health & Safety” before it, is the scapegoat for unpopular decisions. It’s an easy target for politicians, having become an esoteric tool of the legal profession. Whether it’s giving hamburgers to roof protesters, failing to publish photos of escaped murderers, or any other urban myth, the Human Rights Act is at the root of it all.” – Labour’s Andrew Dismore (former Committee Chairman)
The committee’s chairman, Labour’s Andrew Dismore, lost his Hendon seat by a mere 103 votes. Under Dismore’s leadership, the committee made it their work to closely scrutinise the Labour government and be openly critical when they felt that they were failing to comply with Human rights requirements. Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat, also lost his seat by the very narrow margin of 176 votes. He was known for his positive stance on embryo research, his support for the right to seek abortion and for being in favour of permitting euthanasia. He was often subjected to vitriolic diatribes from the right-wing nationalistic tabloid (gutter) press who dubbed him with the unsavoury nickname of ‘Dr Death’.
Conservative peer Lord Bowness and Labour peers Lord Dubs and Lord Morris of Handsworth have returned to the joint reconstituted committee. The committee also receives powerful reinforcement in the form of Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a Liberal Democrat peer and respected public lawyer who spearheaded the campaign to introduce a Bill of Rights into UK law which culminated in the Human Rights Act of 1998. The House of Commons is yet to appoint six new positions before the next meeting. One can only hope that the committee continue and improve on it’s record in defence of human rights.
“unfortunate that the UK’s generally good record on implementation is undermined to a considerable extent by the very lengthy delays in implementation in those cases where the political will to make the necessary changes is lacking. In our view, whatever the challenges thrown up by ajudgment of the European Court of Human Rights, a delay of five years or more in implementing such a judgment can never be acceptable.”
Sharia law? Sham law!
The demand for the abolition of sharia courts in Britain, as elsewhere, is not an attack on people’s right to religion; it is a defence of human rights in general, especially since the imposition of sharia courts is a demand of Islamism to restrict citizens’ rights. They are demanding the right and authority to suppress the rights of others! The only way to protect the rights of everybody is to have a single and SECULAR justice system.
To safeguard our rights there must be one law for all and no religious courts” – The Guardian
Sharia councils are dangerous and harmful to community cohesion since their brand of ‘mediation’ differs little from arbitration and councils will frequently ask people to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions. These councils call themselves courts an imams are appointed as judges with NO control over their appointments and no independent monitoring mechanism. People often have neither access to legal advice nor representation. The proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements and there is no right to appeal.
“There is also danger to those at risk of domestic violence. In one study, four out of 10 women attending Sharia courts were party to civil injunctions against their husbands.” – The Guardian
Under sharia’s civil code, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s and man can divorce his wife by repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications, some of which are difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age regardless of the circumstances of the divorce; women who remarry lose custody of their children even before then and sons inherit twice the share of daughters. Under British law, the child’s best interest is the court’s paramount consideration. How can anyone who has benefited from the rights and freedoms enjoyed in a liberal and non-theocratic society even contemplate the implementation of such a flagrantly imbalanced shift in the laws of this country -that Sharia law requires- with anything less than abject horror? There is no formal requirement for any legal training or recognised qualification, so I wonder; from where are they granted their authority? Sharia law is solely focused on the subjugation of women and has no place in a civilised society.
Not all who attend sharia courts do so voluntarily and unfair decisions can’t be challenged. Women are often pressured by their families into going to these courts and adhering to unfair decisions and may lack knowledge of their rights under British law and refusal to settle a dispute in a sharia court could lead to threats, intimidation or isolation. As long as sharia courts are allowed to make rulings on family law, women will be pressured into accepting decisions which are prejudicial.