Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Lord Neuberger's timely comment ...

In a speech prepared before the recent comments made by Ministers about pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights, the President of the Supreme Court (Lord Neuberger) issued a timely reminder that the United Kingdom is bound by other internationally binding conventions apart from the European Convention on Human Rights - The Guardian 5th March - Senior judge warns over deportation of terror suspects to torture states

'Britain will have to withdraw from the United Nations as well as the European court of human rights if it wants to deport terrorist suspects to states that carry out torture, the country's most senior judge has warned.'

Lord Neuberger was referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 - Full text.  Article 5 is clear:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

The Declaration adds flesh to the words "fundamental freedoms" and "human rights" appearing in the United Nations Charter.  The Charter is binding on all member states.

There is also
the United Nations Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This has bound the UK since 26th June 1987.

Article 3

  1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
  2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

These are important international obligations entered into by the UK and they apply irrespective of the UK's relationship with any aspect of Europe.

The government prides itself on being a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council.  Lord Neuberger's words are therefore particularly appropriate and, in the event, timely.

Addenda - 6th March:

For an interesting post see Eurorights - Lord Neuberger to the executive - Get your tanks off the judicial lawn

Predictably, Lord Neuberger has been accused of dabbling in politics - Daily Mail 6th March 'Judges, .... , are meant to keep their noses out of politics. They take a very dim view when ministers criticise their rulings in human rights cases.  Indeed, Lord Neuberger criticised Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday for daring to question why judges had ignored the will of Parliament in relation to deporting foreign criminals.  If judges expect dignified silence from the Government, surely ministers have a right to expect the head of the Supreme Court to behave in the same way – no matter how strongly he disagrees with them.'

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