Written by Peter Fisher
It is with some considerable degree of difficulty that I write an article on Human Rights law in the UK, as to be quite frank it seems there really isn’t much. The strongest rooted UK human rights legislation is the Bill of Rights (1689) which states:
“No royal interference with the law. Though the sovereign remains the fount of justice, he or she cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as a judge.
No taxation by Royal Prerogative. The agreement of the parliament became necessary for the implementation of any new taxes.
Freedom to petition the monarch without fear of retribution….”
This carries on in the usual fashion of a bloated bit of 17th century legislation. If you read it, despite being the key source in law, you’d realise that it isn’t really about human rights in the way we define them in the 21st century. Understandably the concept of human rights now differs from that which applied 400 years ago.
You may well ask; what about the Human Rights Act 1998? This law was legislated as a requirement to joining the European Community and affirms the legal precedent of the European Convention of Human Rights which details the rights of an individual as such:
- The right to life
- The prohibition of torture
- The prohibition of slavery
- The right to liberty and personal security
- The right to a fair trial
- The right to Privacy
- The right to conscience and religion
- The right to liberty and security
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom of assembly
- And the prohibition of discrimination
However, the fundamental issue with the Human Rights Act is that it is not entrenched in UK Law. There is a provision in the act which states that the government may pass acts which contravene the law as long as it is stated before voting upon the legislation that it does in fact breach the Human Rights Act. Examples of such acts include Anti-terrorism legislation, such as the Anti Terrorism Act (2005) which includes a provision that terrorist suspects can be detained for 28 days without charge. In effect, in this manner, breaching legislation can be written to overrule any aspect of the Human Rights Act.
A consolation to this is that Judges will primarily enforce European legislation as it is a higher statutory authority.
You can see why it can be argued therefore that there are in effect no human rights in this country and there will not be until the Human Rights Act is properly entrenched. An alternative viewpoint is that there need not be strong Human Rights legislation in the UK due to the position of judges and the relative lack of cases involving any serious breach of human rights.
What do you think? Submit your comments below