Oct 2, 2014

    Amnesty: New Tory Plans Are "A Blueprint For Human Rights You Would Expect From Belarus"

    The director of campaigns for the human rights organisation said the proposals equated to "electioneering on the backs of Europe's most vulnerable".

    Darren Staples / Reuters

    The Conservative party's proposals for reforms to human rights laws in Britain are "a blueprint for human rights you would expect from a country like Belarus", according to the campaigns director at Amnesty International.

    The plans, which form part of the Conservative's pre-election manifesto, would see the Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour in 1998, scrapped, and would mean decisions made in the European court could no longer affect British laws.

    Tim Hancock, campaigns director at Amnesty UK, said: "These proposals are nasty, spiteful and shameful. This is electioneering on the backs of Europe's most vulnerable."

    Hancock said the plans should concern British citizens. He said: "This is a blueprint for human rights you would expect from a country like Belarus. We should all be worried when politicians try to set themselves above the law. It's a complete disgrace to see the government blackmail the Council of Europe."

    Details of the plans emerged on Thursday, when legal commentator David Allen Green published the proposals on his blog.

    The document says the Conservatives have put forward the strategy as a means to "restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK".

    Home secretary Theresa May has questioned the link between the power the European courts have over British law multiple times, especially in relation to deporting foreign nationals who pose a threat to the country.

    The most recent high-profile case was that of Abu Qatada, whom the government was unable to deport due to the Human Rights Act and the European Court. He was eventually transferred to Jordan, but only because he agreed to leave.

    Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: "We cannot go on with a situation where crucial decisions about how this country is run and how we protect our citizens are taken by the European Court of Human Rights and not by our parliament and our own courts. We also have to be much clearer about when human rights laws should be used, and that rights have to be balanced with responsibilities."

    Green took particular issue with a number of the measures, in particular one that says: "People who do not fulfil their responsibilities in society should not be able to claim so-called 'qualified rights' in their defence."

    He wrote on Twitter that the fact all human rights, with the exception of the right to life and the right against being tortured, were "qualified". "Not 'human' rights," he said.

    Here are some of the plans suggested by the Conservatives, as published in Green's blog:

    • Repeal Labour's 1998 Human Rights Act.
    • Break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. In future, Britain's courts will no longer be required to take into account rulings from the Court in Strasbourg. This will make our Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK.
    • End the ability of the European Court to require the UK to change British laws. Every judgement against the UK will be treated as advisory and will have to be approved by parliament if it is to lead to a change in our laws.
    • Define much more clearly when and how Human Rights laws in the UK are to be applied. This will end the ability of the Courts to decide unilaterally to apply Human Rights laws to whole new areas of public life.
    • Limit the use of Human Rights laws to the most serious cases. They will no longer apply in trivial cases.
    • Balance rights and responsibilities. People who do not fulfil their responsibilities in society should not be able to claim so-called "qualified rights" in their defence in a court of law.
    • Ensure that those who pose a national security risk to this country or have entered it illegally cannot rely on questionable human rights claims to prevent their deportation.

    Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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