Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The threat posed by the European Court Of Human Rights

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of cases that have come before the ECHR. Four decisions, to name but a few, which have caused controversy in Britain, relate to corporal punishment in schools, whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the armed forces, the rights of so-called 'trans-gendered' people, and the requirement to give votes to prisoners. There may well be arguments on both sides in each of these cases and it would be too simplistic to argue that the ECHR came to the wrong conclusions. It would be also beside the point since the main problem with the decisions of the ECHR is not that they may be wrong, but that once made they are almost impossible to reverse should it be considered necessary to do so in the light of experience.

So, for example, it will not be possible for a political party to stand for election on a platform which includes the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools, despite popular support for such a measure that might exist amongst the electorate. The ECHR is allowed to ride roughshod over national parliaments, courts, traditions and values. It undermines the traditional reciprocity and trust between citizens and government since it takes as its starting point the dogma that national institutions, such a democratically elected parliaments, have less legitimacy than vague trans-national human rights declarations.

Since the introduction of the Human Rights Act the 'rights' of criminals appears to rank higher than those of law abiding citizens. One such glaring example was the decision of the appeal court to allow the Afghans who hijacked an airliner to avoid deportation on human rights grounds. Even former prime minister Tony Blair was moved to comment on decisions that 'defy common sense'. Not to be outdone in the auction for 'human rights' the EU has proposed its own 'Charter of Fundamental Rights'. For the most part this is a wish list of abstract high-minded politically correct ideals, akin to the idealised rhetoric propagated by the Liberal Democrats and New Labour (and now embraced by the Conservatives under David Cameron). Such matters are more properly debated through the national democratic process, not imposed on us by a supra national body. In the longer term it is probable that this 'charter' could present a huge threat to political independence since it could be used to proscribe political parties dissenting from politically correct orthodoxies.

The understandable motivation for the introduction of generalised human rights declarations was the flagrant abuse of such rights by totalitarian one party states. In the judgement of many, the best safeguard against the introduction of human rights abuses is a democratically elected British parliament, independent political parties, jury trial for serious crimes and a genuine free press and media where a wide range of views can be expressed. Even under this system it will be almost inevitable that, despite these safeguards, unjust or impractical laws may be introduced. However, as a nation we will have the means to change these for ourselves once the flaws become apparent. Under the regime of externally determined human rights we may have to live with mistakes indefinitely. We must also rouse ourselves to the threat posed by the European Court of Human Rights. The human rights of individuals are certainly a matter which must be taken seriously. But people have responsibilities as well as civil rights and the latter are not absolute. The advancement of individual rights at the expense of the wider community rights and interests, or of good order in society, could be destructive. Getting the right balance on this will never be easy but the best forum for debating the issues is through a national parliament answerable to the people it serves. It is not achieved by permitting the legislative function of parliament to be handed over to the judiciary, still less to a foreign judiciary. At the moment we are in peril of losing our precious parliamentary heritage through the creeping totalitarianism of the European Union and the unaccountability of an external judiciary. Once lost, the capacity to govern ourselves could be impossible to regain.

No comments:

Post a Comment