Conservatives threaten to leave European Convention on Human Rights
The controversial Rwanda deportation plan put in place by the Conservatives continues to be blocked on all sides of the political strata, including from within the Conservative Party itself. This has led to potential threats from senior members of the Conservative Party to campaign to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) at the next election.
Is the ECHR “At odds with British Values”?
The Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated back in March of this year, that the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) was ‘sometimes at odds with British values’. This is an unsurprising response given that the first planned deportation flight to Rwanda was dramatically blocked at the last minute by the ECtHR, who granted an urgent interim measure indicating to the UK Government that the applicant (an Iraqi national) should not be removed to Rwanda until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.
Whether the ECHR is truly ‘at odds with British Values’ is debatable. Recent data from King’s College London shows that the UK public are the most accepting of immigration, of 17 countries represented in the survey, ahead of Germany, the United States and Brazil to name a few.
The survey highlights that the UK is among the most likely of those nations to think that immigration strengthens cultural diversity, and among those least likely to believe that immigration increases unemployment or the risk of terrorism.
Above everything, threats to leave the ECHR appear to be a last-ditch attempt by the Conservatives ahead of a general election next year to be seen to be defending UK borders, rather than actually reflecting UK values on immigration.
What is the significance of the ECHR?
The ECHR is an international treaty which the UK signed in 1951. It contains a list of the basic political and civil rights which we all need to live a dignified life. For example, the right not to be tortured, to a private life, and so on. You can find further detail in our article here.
The work of human rights lawyers in England and Wales is intertwined with the ECHR and the ECHR continues to influence and impact English human rights law daily.
The case of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD and another  UKSC 11 , for example, has set an important precedent for police forces (and the CPS) nationwide, by clarifying that a failure to investigate and/or prosecute ill-treatment (such as rape) can breach article 3 of the ECHR , which is the prohibition on Torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. That was the case arising out of a multitude of rapes of vulnerable women committed by serial ‘taxi-cab rapist’, John Worboys.
That case has seen the development of English law, specifically but not only in the context of sexual abuse/assault claims, by giving rise to a positive obligation on state agents to conduct an ‘effective’ investigation, which includes investigating the crime ‘promptly’, and taking appropriate steps to secure the evidence concerning the incident, such as forensic evidence.
Cases such as these have increased the usefulness of rights designed to allow us a life of basic dignity, and have enabled members of the public who have been for example, sexually assaulted or abused, to seek justice.
Leaving the ECHR would evidently be more at odds with British values than remaining a part of it. However, it is clear the government will continue in its rhetoric of ‘taking back control’ from Europe, and continue to incite mistrust of Europe, under the ruse of improving our rights, rather than explaining the reality of the government’s intention to increase state power over individuals, by curtailing those rights. See our article here for an example of this already happening, and how senior police officers and others are already condemning the changes to be “a massive civil liberty infringement”.
The ECHR continues to play a significant role in the protection of justice in this country, and it is crucial that progress made in human rights law is not undone as we approach the next general election.
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