Posted by: aboutalbion | May 31, 2015

Elusive ‘human rights’ and a working UK general election result

During the past few weeks, I’ve been collecting my thoughts downstream of the recent UK general election.  The conclusion that I’ve come to is that (against the expectations provided by months of polling) the UK electorate crafted a working outcome.

First, it seems that the electorate ‘decided’ that it preferred government by one party.  Second, it seems that the electorate ‘decided’ to replace the restraining influence of the previous junior coalition partner by a slender majority for the single governing party.

And this restraining influence has already been exercised in that legislation to repeal the Human Rights Act [HRA] 1998 did not make its expected appearance in the list of bills to be debated in the first year of the new Conservative government.  There are rumours that objections to the repeal of HRA 1998 from Northern Ireland and from Scotland might be avoided by legislation for England which replaces HRA 1998 by an English Bill of Rights, and that this revised strategy needs a little more time ‘to get it right’.

HRA 1998 provided that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR] were available in UK courts.  This has given rise to a state of affairs in which, for example, several criminals of foreign nationality have successfully appealed to Article 8 of ECHR [a right to respect for one’s private and family life] and thus been able to resist UK attempts to deport them.  This kind of example motivates many Conservative politicians to support the repeal of HRA 1998 and its replacement with a Bill of Rights.

Politicians who oppose the repeal of HRA 1998 point to British involvement in the formation of the ECHR in 1953 (as the implementation on the continent of Europe of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights).  They warn that the international community would be perplexed by the UK abandoning the ECHR.

Several commentators are asking if the assumption of the existence of ‘human rights’ is well-founded.  For example, how can the right to life have any meaning alongside weapons of mass destruction?  For example, how can the right to freedom from abuse have any meaning when monotheistic religions and certain cultures allow the genital mutilation of male and female minors?  For example, how can the human rights of the people of Syria be respected when they are currently being violated by the head of a state that was a signatory to original 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights?

Since ‘human rights’ seem to be missing when they’re needed, it does seem reasonable to ask whether ‘human rights’ actually exist.

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