Last week’s argument about the Human Rights Act (HRA) between the UK’s Justice Minister and Home Secretary seems to have been an incredibly petty affair. With Chris Huhne, another senior politician, involved too, accusations and apologies were flying about! When three front bench ministers get embroiled in such trivia – whether details are true or false – it becomes just a mere distraction from the real fact; the Home Secretary, and many other Tories, want to scrap the HRA and replace with a new Bill of Rights.
Whilst I acknowledge that the HRA is not perfect; it was originally written as a necessary attempt to bring European Human Rights legislation onto the UK statute book. Despite its imperfection, it does has great value. Can anyone truly disagree with the following list of human rights enshrined in it?
The right to life, freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, right to the liberty and security, freedom from slavery and forced labour, the right to a fair trial, no punishment without law, respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence, freedom of thought, belief and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, the right to marry and start a family, protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms, the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property, the right to education and the right to participate in free elections.
Surely, no law abiding citizen within our society can have any disagreement with its substance. As with most legislation, it is not the content that causes a problem, only its implementation; too many people try and get away with misusing it, citing “individual human rights” as an excuse or reason for non-compliance of other societal rules or regulations. That doesn’t make the Act wrong or in need of scrapping. Perhaps instead, it should suggest to those responsible for its implementation that they are the ones who need to seek improvements.
So why is there a desire to replace it? Perhaps, the coalition government (at least the Conservative part) are seeking political capital, playing on the public majority view that human rights are about political correctness. What nonsense!
Whilst writing about Human Rights, I notice a really good piece of global news that was passed by last week – lost in all the media frenzy about the European and global financial crisis. In Burma (Myanmar) the military leaders declared an amnesty for about 2000 political prisoners and released them – perhaps a sign of better things to come from that repressive regime. Watch it here