Posted by: aboutalbion | August 1, 2012

Rule of Law (2)

Tom Bingham’s 2006 Cambridge lecture on “The Rule of Law” has eight explanatory features to it.  The next pair are …

Third, “the laws of the land should apply equally to all, save to the extent that objective differences justify differentiation”.  His comments begin with the usual legal provision for children, prisoners, and mentally ill people.  Then he argues that habeas corpus protection applies both to UK and to non-UK citizens resident in the UK.  Finally, with objective differences provided for, he argues that just laws must apply to all and not be selective in operation, and he discusses a recent law framed and enacted against a minority.  His example cites legislation which provides for the indefinite detention without charge or trial of those non-UK citizens suspected of links with international terrorism, which at the same time exempts UK citizens suspected of the same links from these same provisions.

Fourth, “the law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights”.  Bingham acknowledges that, among what he called “civilised nations”, there is a lack of precise agreement as to the contents of the list of fundamental human rights that need to be protected.  He mentions ethnic segregation, sexual inequality, and the death penalty as matters of dispute.  I would add non-therapeutic genital mutilation of children at this point.  However, within a given nation state, there will normally be general agreement about the human rights that are fundamental, and Bingham believes that they should be legally protected by “the rule of law”.

[Bingham, Tom (2006) The Rule of Law. [Sir David Williams Lecture to the Centre for Public Law, University of Cambridge]. 16 November.]

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