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The ECHR Elephant in the Room

The following is a guest post by Christopher Gill, a former MP and a former Chairman of The Freedom Association 

By what logic or imperative does HMG keep us bound to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR?

Manifestly it is an obstacle to deporting illegal immigrants, as evidenced by the banning of flights to Rwanda by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Manifestly the ECHR does not do what it purports to do, as evidenced by the litany of innocent British subjects who, having been served with a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), have endured false accusation, arbitrary arrest and wrongful imprisonment.

Manifestly, having left the European Union, the UK is no longer under any obligation to maintain membership of the ECHR.

Manifestly the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) is a more acceptable international alternative to the ECHR, not least because its Article 9 unequivocally states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” and also because it would mean that the final arbiters in British human rights cases would be British judges, sitting in British courts, rather than foreign judges sitting in the ECtHR.

In my submission, voters would regard exiting the ECHR variously as:

a) removing a substantial roadblock to the ending of illegal immigration 

b) a welcome extension of Brexit  

c) a wholly desirable repatriation of judicial powers 

d) a redemption of  broken pledges 

e) an actual strengthening of human rights by dint of making the law of Habeas Corpus applicable in all cases and not least, 

f) a rare example of their Government acting decisively.

Manifestly absurd is the Government’s commitment to continued membership of the ECHR in spite of all of the above and also in spite of that policy being so widely unpopular, as evidenced by a recent Express poll showing 95% of respondents deeming the ECHR’s involvement in British affairs as being “no longer fit for purpose”.

Given all the evidence stacked up against the Convention what is preventing HMG from serving notice to leave?

Is it because the Government lacks the necessary political will?

Or is it because it lacks the grit and determination to overcome opposition within government departments?

Or is it simply because it is fearful of taking radical decisions this side of a General Election?

The fact that the Conservatives once widely trailed leaving the ECHR as something that they would do  –  as Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking at the Tory Party Conference in October certainly encouraged us to believe  -  all now seems to be riding on Justice Secretary Dominic Raab’s on/off /on again, new Bill of Rights.

But where’s the urgency?

His Bill was first published more than 6 months ago and yet it still awaits its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

Another unanswered question is whether in fact Dominic’s ‘cunning plan’ will pass muster with the Council of Europe given that, as Labour’s Emily Thornberry has correctly observed, one cannot pick and choose which aspects of an internationally agreed treaty, in this case the ECHR, one either observes or ignores.

The Ministry of Justice have advised that “the Bill of Rights will allow us to remain a State Party to the ECHR while allowing us to fully avail ourselves of the margin of appreciation afforded to states under the ECHR and ensure that the democratic will of Parliament is properly considered and respected in contexts where Parliament has legislated”.

We shall see, but it will only take one of its 47 signatories to veto any or all measures aimed at circumventing the terms of the Convention to force HMG back to the proverbial drawing board.

The Daily Telegraph headline (31st January) screamed “Halt migrant boats or face defeat, Braverman tells Tories”. 

So what are we waiting for?



Photo Credit: European Court of Human Rights - (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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