Wednesday, January 19

Raab’s human rights proposals are condemned as “blatant power grab” | Dominic raab

Plans to reform the Human Rights Law are a brazen takeover with the aim of putting the government beyond the reach of the law, pressure groups and opposition parties have said.

In launching a three-month consultation on a new bill of rights in the Commons, Dominic Raab faced a series of calls to delay plans to strengthen the power of the state against the rights of the individual.

The highly controversial changes will introduce a permission stage to “deter false human rights claims” and upset the balance between freedom of expression and privacy.

Martha Spurrier, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “This plan to reform the Human Rights Law is a blatant and shameless takeover of a government that wants to put itself above the law. They are literally rewriting the rules in their favor so that they become untouchable. “

Sacha Deshmukh, executive director of Amnesty International, said that human rights were not “sweet” for ministers to choose from and that the “aggressive” attempt to “roll back” the laws must be stopped.

He added: “If ministers move forward with plans to soften the Human Rights Law and overturn sentences with which they do not agree, they run the risk of aligning themselves with authoritarian regimes around the world.”

The President of the Law Society of England and Wales, I Stephanie Boyce, said: “People from all walks of life rely on Human Rights Law to defend and protect their rights. Any reform of this subtle and carefully crafted legal instrument must be based on evidence, not political rhetoric.

Raab told MPs that Britain would remain a party to the European convention on human rights (ECHR) before outlining how it wants to change, reform and revise the national interpretation and application of the convention by UK courts.

“Following the reforms to the convention system reflected in the 2012 Brighton declaration, we will affirm the margin of appreciation as appropriate in the UK’s dialogue with the Strasbourg court,” he said.

Raab said the UK government wanted to “avoid misuse and distortion” of the convention, noting: “Some of this has arisen because of Strasbourg jurisprudence and some of UK jurisprudence.

“Let me be very clear from the beginning: my criticism is directed at Human Rights Act, the way it operates, it is not directed at the UK judiciary, which has sought to adequately implement the legislation passed in this chamber.”

Questions and answers

What is the Human Rights Law?


The 1998 Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, enshrines in UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Drafted in 1950, the ECHR describes these fundamental principles:

  • The right to life.
  • Prohibition of torture.
  • Prohibition of slavery, servitude and forced labor.
  • The right to liberty and security of the person.
  • The right to a fair trial.
  • Prohibition of retroactive classification of acts.
  • The right to respect for “private and family life, home and correspondence.”
  • Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • The right to freedom of expression.
  • The right to freedom of assembly and association.
  • The right to marry.
  • Free from discrimination.

It states that British judges must hear cases in such a way that they are compatible with the findings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, wherever possible. It also makes it illegal for public bodies to act in a manner inconsistent with the convention.

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Shadow Attorney General Steve Reed called the plans a “dead cat diversion tactic.”

“Every time the government is in political trouble, they reform the Human Rights Law,” he said. “It is a diversionary tactic from the dead cat of a government that doesn’t know how to fix the criminal justice system they have broken and is desperate to divert attention from the corruption scandals they started.

“This is little more than an attempt to wage culture wars because they have given up on waging a war on crime and corruption.”

MPs learned that Boris Johnson was leading a party of “growing authoritarianism.”

Clive Lewis, the Labor MP from Norwich South, said that if Parliament was playing “authoritarian bingo,” then Raab’s statement had been sold out. “It has not only come for our union rights, our right to vote, our right to protest, our human rights are now at stake. Today’s declaration does nothing to strengthen human rights, it does everything possible to weaken them. “

Brendan O’Hara, the human rights spokesman for the Scottish National Party, called on the government to provide evidence of the need for a review of human rights laws.

Raab responded that the evidence base had been established “to some extent”, adding that a new interpretation of Article 8 on the right to private and family life “will allow us to deport more foreign criminals, who have been paralyzed … under the Human Rights Law ”.

Raab said the proposals would also reinforce the weight given to freedom of speech, adding that it is “an essentially British right, the freedom that protects everyone else. But one we’ve seen lately eroded by a combination of jurisprudence introducing continental-style privacy rules and gradually narrowing the scope for respectful but noisy debate in politically sensitive areas.

“Freedom of speech sometimes means the freedom to say things that others may not want to hear.”

Raab said the changes would “sharpen” the separation of powers and make the UK’s highest court, not Strasbourg, the “ultimate judicial arbiter when it comes to interpreting the ECHR in this country.”

The Justice Secretary said of the UK proposals: “We can prevent serious criminals from relying on Article 8, the right to family life, to thwart their deportation from this country.” Raab said Article 8 claims constituted “about 70%” of all successful human rights challenges by foreign criminals against deportation orders, adding: “Our proposals would allow us to legislate to reduce that abuse of the system.” .

He said the changes would also help the government implement its “root and branch reform” of parole procedures, noting that this had been raised by MPs on all sides in the wake of cases, including that of Colin Pitchfork, a Double child killer who was called to prison in November after approaching young women while on parole.

“In these areas and others, our reforms will allow parliament to act and, where necessary, affirm the margin of appreciation vis-à-vis Strasbourg while remaining part of the convention,” Raab said.

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