Nonsense on stilts

So the Tories are planning to ditch the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Conservative party is prepared to withdraw from the European convention on human rights (ECHR) after the next election, the home secretary Theresa May has said, as she detailed a fresh drive to curb the appeal rights of 70,000 people who face deportation every year.

“The next Conservative manifesto will promise to scrap the Human Rights Act. It’s why Chris Grayling is leading a review of our relationship with the European court [of human rights],” she told the party’s conference. “And it’s why the Conservative position is clear – if leaving the European convention is what it takes to fix our human rights laws, that is what we should do,” she said to applause.

May was followed by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, who set out a timetable for the development of their policy for a radical reform of human rights law. He said the Conservatives would publish a document in 2014 “setting out what we will do, when we will do it, and how we will do it”, followed by a draft bill setting out the legal detail later in the year.

May’s explicit statement followed David Cameron’s hint on Sunday that the Tories were openly considering the “nuclear option” of withdrawing from the ECHR, despite warnings from the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, and others, of the damage to Britain’s international standing.

What could possibly go wrong?



  1. Jason Dick says

    I really hope two things are true:
    1. They stick with this asinine nonsense.
    2. They completely and utterly misread their electorate and are absolutely killed in the next elections because of it.

  2. consciousness razor says

    The next Conservative manifesto will promise to scrap the Human Rights Act.

    Ever since the first Conservative manifesto, they’ve all just said “Scrap human rights.” They’ve obviously been working very hard.

  3. John Phillips, FCD says

    Jason Dick #1, sadly, if they lose the next election it is unlikely to be over this as Europe in general isn’t particularly popular over here with far too many not realising this has nothing to do with the EU, especially with the anti-EU corner of the media deliberately muddying the water over the difference. Plus, combined with that, far too many UKians, from their whiteprivileged position, don’t see the protection offered by the ECHR as anything they are likely to need, at least not until it is too late. After all, as the media and the Tories keep telling them, all the ECHR does is stop the government from protecting us from brown peopleterrorists.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new ultra-conservative government here in Oz under new PM “Teaparty” Tony Abbott did something similar and abolished or opted out of the UN Human rights Commission.

    After all, the UNHCR has told us off for our mistreatment of refugees who’ve been fleeing war torn hellholes in leaky boats only to be locked up and isolated and not even have their names and stories allowed to be known like as if they were worse than the worst criminals and further traumatised and harmed so, yeah, there’s been calls from some right-wingers for that to happen. Its a worry.

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @4. John Phillips, FCD :

    After all, as the media and the Tories keep telling them, all the ECHR does is stop the government from protecting us from brown people / terrorists.


    In fairness, the ECHR hasn’t helped its cause or perceptionsof itself here by its support for hate preacher and terrorist Abu Hamza and the whole extradition case there :

    Innocent, good people should be supported and helped. Evil scumbags and genuine terrorists and terrorist helpers not-so-much.

    The ECHR should never have helped Hamza or heardhis caes and allowed his deportation without hesitation – and should do so for similar cases.

    Like how Amnesty helps political prisoners but not serial killers and rapists same sort of deal, Speka upand suport people whodeserve it – not ones’ who’ve shown they don’t and do present areal threat.

    That said, as before I do support the European Convention for Human Rights and equivalent conventions and bodies applied properly and certainly don’t think they should be abolished. (Just more picky in who they help – belonging to a terrorist organisation should automatically rule someone out of any consideration for protection under them.).

  6. Albert Bakker says

    @6 StevoR: Excluding terrorists from protection above and beyond basic human rights under the convention is a very sympathetic thought. Seems clear and practical enough.

    So now you only have to draw a line somewhere. That should be easy: we have lists.

    After the delisting of the bizarre Iranian terrorist cult MEK though I’m not having as much faith in the purpose of such lists when it comes to combatting terrorism. I’m getting the impression they’re more of a political commodity than anything else. Some terrorists organizations find it almost impossible to get on them and others to get off them, the criteria seem to correlate more sometimes with how much their goals align themselves to the politics of the bodies who devise those lists, or their momentary usefulness, than the brutality of their methods.

  7. oursally says

    No, it’s just an election promise, not even that, it’s a thought about making a future election promise. They just want to say, we deported Abu Hamza* and the others didn’t, and if you elect them again etc etc. Hot air.

    * I think they did?

  8. Dunc says

    Anybody remember when warrantless surveillance was only for terrorists? That’s one of the reasons why I’m sceptical of any call to define certain classes of people to whom the normal rules do not apply – those classes have a funny habit of expanding when nobody’s looking.

    There’s also the point that it’s precisely those people who are generally regarded as “evil scumbags” who are most in need of human rights protection.

    Once you assert that people’s fundamental rights can be waived if we (or rather, the authorities) really think they deserve it, the whole concept of fundamental rights becomes meaningless, and pretty soon the only people who have rights are those who don’t actually need them.

    Like Sir Thomas More, I would give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

  9. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Whilst I don’t agree that the ECHR should be scrapped outright, there is a case for it to be ammended. For example, it should be easier to deport the likes of the two Abu’s (Hamza and Qatada), immigrants who come into a country then openly declare war upon it by preaching hatred of its laws and values and encouraging their followers to commit acts of terror.
    Certainly each case should be decided on the individual merits of the case, but when the potential deportee is an avowed enemy of his/her new place of residence, and openly declares hostility and hatred towards it, and encourages acts of terror to be committed against it, then that particular nation shouldn’t have to jump through hoops for years in order to wave them goodbye.
    There’s no denying that, when compared to countries such as the U.S.A. and Australia, etc, Britain is – and has been for a long time – a ‘soft option’ for immigrants. And long may it be so, in my opinion.

  10. says

    Acolyte of Sagan: You’re wrong. Britain is the opposite of a “soft option” for immigrants. I say this as someone with experience of immigration casework and activism.

    This is a country where asylum-seekers are locked up in hellholes like Yarl’s Wood in dehumanizing conditions, and abused and maltreated, simply for wanting to come to this country. The asylum system itself is a farce, and the Home Office routinely refuses almost all asylum claims, demanding unrealistic standards of evidence. Remember that many of these people are survivors of rape, forced marriage, domestic violence, FGM and other abuses, and come to this country to seek sanctuary – where our government promptly locks them up and treats them as though they were criminals. Many people are deported to countries where they face persecution – in one of the worst cases, Jackie Nanyonjo, a Ugandan lesbian, died as a result of injuries inflicted on her by her security escort while being forcibly returned to Uganda. The amount of violence and brutality in the immigration detention and enforcement system is staggering.

    Some asylum-seekers are held in detention on the “Detained Fast Track” as soon as they arrive. Asylum-seekers who are not detained aren’t allowed to work, and have to live on NASS support, which is half of what a British person on benefits would get. Many can’t afford to feed their children. And failed asylum-seekers get no cash at all, and most end up homeless and destitute. This isn’t what I’d call a “soft touch”.

    One of the primary reasons the Tories want to get rid of the ECHR is to remove obstacles to deportation and removal, and roll back the rights of refugees and migrants. They particularly want to get rid of Article 8 ECHR, which protects the right to private and family life, and means that people with strong family ties and children in this country can sometimes avoid deportation. The Tories have already tried to curtail the scope of Article 8 through amendments to the Immigration Rules, but that attempt has been rightly stopped by the courts, who have confirmed that pre-amendment case law still applies. Theresa May would like to nuke the entire system in order to make it easier to deport more people, because it plays well in the editorial pages of the Daily Mail – which is really what this is about. It’s the same reason why they’ve rolled back legal aid for immigrants and are planning to do so further, with the proposed 12-month “residence test”.

    As for Abu Qatada, there was a good reason why he couldn’t be deported – because in Jordan, it is likely that evidence obtained through torture will be used against him at trial, breaching his right to a fair trial. He may well be all manner of bad things, but that doesn’t mean his basic human rights should be disregarded. These aren’t “hoops to jump through”, they’re basic constitutional protections that apply to everyone. We certainly shouldn’t tear down the entire human rights system, which exists to protect the vulnerable and marginalized, just because of public anger at one individual.

  11. Bernard Bumner says

    Human rights for all! (Unless we don’t like them.)

    The idea of withdrawing from a human rights convention because you don’t like the protection it affords to those in your jurisdiction is sickening: an outright declaration that you wish to violate those rights.

  12. John Phillips, FCD says

    Walton #11 and Bernard #13, QFFT. It’s either human rights for all or human rights for nobody and that includes those we might not like. Otherwise, how long before those in power decide that it shouldn’t apply to anyone who disagrees with them. How many bloody more times do we have to relearn this lesson.

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