The ECHR was established in 1959 to adjudicate on individual complaints under the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950. The Convention took as its starting point the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The Convention sought collective enforcement of the rights set out in the Universal Declaration, 'through the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms'. The British government was the first nation to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights. It did so without any parliamentary debate or manifesto commitment. The then Attorney General, answering an inquiry from a sceptical MP, opined that 'it is not contemplated that any legislation will be necessary to give effect to the terms of the Convention because I think we are entitled to say that the law of the land in this country has always been in advance of the laws of most other countries in regard to human rights'.
This mixture of idealism and naiveté was perhaps excusable at that time but with the benefit of hindsight and experience, the holding of such views today is clearly reckless and wilfully blind. The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law further tied the hands of Parliament and future governments to act in what they judge to be the nation’s best interests. Because of the subversive nature of its provisions, the Human Rights Act should, with more honesty, be renamed the Suspension of Parliamentary Government Act. For this reason its repeal would not result in the loss of human rights but their reclamation.
It is easy to understand and sympathise with the noble and high-minded ideals which led to these human rights declarations. They came in the aftermath of a conflict that was fought, by many of the Allies, to end a system in which the most flagrant human rights abuses had been perpetrated as deliberate government policy by supposedly civilised nations. However, it is sometimes said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So it is worth examining whether human rights are best preserved by foreign based judges interpreting often vague and generalised human rights declarations, or whether there is a simpler and more effective way of achieving this end. It should be remembered that the UN Declaration of Human Rights was carried at a time when one of the permanent members of the Security Council was incarcerating and liquidating millions of its citizens, whose only 'crime' was to come into disfavour with the totalitarian Marxist regime controlled by one of the most brutal dictators in history.