Fiddling with Human Rights Law

December 08, 2008 2:09 PM

Jack Straw has announced that he has plans to "rebalance" the Human Rights Act (HRA). The problem is that this isn't a system that any British politician can balance, adjust or alter at all.


The rights that the HRA enshrines can't be made contingent upon the responsibilities Straw wants to add being met. Equally, he can't do anything about the HRA preventing, for example, radical Islamists being deported.


That isn't how the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the document that the HRA writes into British law, works. The ECHR doesn't allow for states to balance rights against responsibilities or practical concerns. We can't decide that, for example, in order to ensure a vigorous press we do not want to pass a stringent privacy law. That is not a balance we are free to strike.


Only if we get rid of the ECHR and don't rely on inflexible foreign treaties to defend our liberties will we have the freedom to respond to the concerns Jack Straw seeks to address.

Jack Straw has announced that he has plans to "rebalance" the Human Rights Act (HRA). The problem is that this isn't a system that any British politician can balance, adjust or alter at all.


The rights that the HRA enshrines can't be made contingent upon the responsibilities Straw wants to add being met. Equally, he can't do anything about the HRA preventing, for example, radical Islamists being deported.


That isn't how the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the document that the HRA writes into British law, works. The ECHR doesn't allow for states to balance rights against responsibilities or practical concerns. We can't decide that, for example, in order to ensure a vigorous press we do not want to pass a stringent privacy law. That is not a balance we are free to strike.


Only if we get rid of the ECHR and don't rely on inflexible foreign treaties to defend our liberties will we have the freedom to respond to the concerns Jack Straw seeks to address.

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