Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Human Rights - just a little more

Prof Juan Méndez
The right to help eachother:

Following on from the immediately preceding post, I came across a blogpost which seems to really try to get the the basis of what "human rights" are about - Do right, fear no-one! -The right to help eachother.

Here, solicitor Tom Gaisford argues that our discussion of human rights ignores one of our greatest freedoms.  Amongst all the rights defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights there is no mention of our freedom to help each other.  Nor has it been characterised as a human right since. Why not? The answer is simple: we have taken it for granted.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) said - "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." 

Concern about the Justice and Security Bill:

Over the last 10 years or so an attitude has developed of some governments "looking the other way" in relation to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  All of these are absolutely prohibited in international law and there is an absolute obligation on States to investigate, prosecute and punish even isolated breaches of the prohibition.  The Guardian reports the view expressed by Prof Juan Méndez (UN special rapporteur on torture) that remedying abuses is hampered by the so-called "control principle" accepted by the U.K. in relation to the sharing of intelligence.  This puts the State which supplies information in the driving seat as to whether that information may be used in legal proceedings etc.  The control principle is one justification put forward by the British government for the Justice and Security Bill.  Opponents of the Bill claim that if it  becomes law it could be used to suppress evidence of UK involvement in torture -   Secret courts could suppress evidence of UK role in torture, says UN official.

For full details of the talk by the Special Rapporteur see Chatham House 10th September - "Enforcing the absolute prohibition against torture." and also note the comments at International Law Bureau

The Justice and Security Bill (as introduced to Parliament) was considered in an earlier post.  The Bill was introduced via the House of Lords and is currently in its committee stage there.

Is the UK listening to the European Court of Human Rights?  

See the interesting post on UK Human Rights blog which looks at the current state of play with regard to the UK and implementation of judgments.  Ministry of Justice ~ Responding to Human Rights Judgments 2011-2012

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