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Monday, November 07, 2011

Sadiq Khan writes a pile of Tory shit

Sadiq Khan writes a pile of Tory shit

The Council of Europe: this is Britain’s human rights opportunity

Chairing the Council of Europe will provide an opportunity to push for more national freedom, says Sadiq Khan.

Today, the UK takes over chairmanship of the Council of Europe – an organisation of 47 nations and 800 million people stretching from the west coast of Ireland to Vladivostok. One of the inspirations for its creation was Winston Churchill’s 1946 speech at the University of Zurich, in which he advocated a body to foster truth and understanding that could prevent the continent being ravaged again by conflict.

Among the council’s earliest achievements was the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its associated court based in Strasbourg. As this is the first time in a generation that the United Kingdom has held the chairmanship of the council, the next six months will provide a golden opportunity for the Government to put its money where its mouth is and press for reform of the court. It is a small window of opportunity, so ministers will have to move quickly and decisively if they are to bring about the changes they claim to seek.

And there’s no doubt that the human rights court does need reforming if it is to maintain any legitimacy across Europe. In particular, it must not lose sight of something called the “margin of appreciation”. This is a principle that the court itself developed, under which uniform judgments are not imposed on states when there is no European-wide consensus as to the interpretation of specific rights.

Of course, it is essential that common standards are maintained in many areas of fundamental rights, such as freedom from torture or slavery – as we repeatedly demand of other nations. But where social policy is concerned, member states should be allowed to interpret rulings which suit their own circumstances and traditions.

One recent example where the court should have applied the margin of appreciation is the UK’s blanket ban on prisoner voting. In demanding that this be lifted, the human rights judges failed to give the UK the appropriate leeway it merited. Instead, the court should let this country decide who is allowed to vote and should also respect the response to its judgment from our elected legislature.

The court also faces a hefty backlog of cases – currently 150,000 and growing by 20,000 a year. This is partly a product of the court’s success: citizens of the new democracies in Eastern Europe are flocking to Strasbourg asking to be brought up to an acceptable level of rights – often basic liberties that the UK has long taken for granted. Unfortunately, they can wait years to obtain a decision, something the Government must try to speed up during its six months in charge.

Improving the quality of the judges is also important if the court is to retain a reputation as an international body of the highest calibre. The UK should insist on enhanced procedures for selecting qualified judges and we should use our standing as champions of human rights with some of the world’s best judges to raise the standard in Strasbourg to the level we expect at home.

We must also ensure the court focuses on worthy cases. This means insisting upon screening mechanisms that sift out irrelevant cases early on. Furthermore, the court is swamped with similar – often identical – cases, so judges need a system to consolidate them, reducing caseloads.

Similarly, improving awareness of the workings of the court, and what cases are in its scope, should reduce demand in Strasbourg. For this to be addressed involves an element of subsidiarity – the principle that member states should secure human rights themselves and that recourse to the court should be a last resort. The last Labour government recognised this by enshrining the convention into British law through the Human Rights Act. This reduced the need for UK citizens to take cases to Strasbourg and allowed our courts to develop their own interpretation of the European convention’s rights, while also providing a lead to other council members.

Whether the Government can point to any success over the next six months will depend in part on whether inroads have been made into the massive backlog of cases, and on reductions in the rate of new cases. It will also be measured by the extent to which the court accepts that countries should be given a wider margin of appreciation in social policy. In addition, the Government must exploit the opportunity our chairmanship provides to educate the nation about the workings of the ECHR – how membership benefits not just us but the whole continent. After all, the convention, inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drafted largely by a Conservative, David Maxwell Fyfe, is a blueprint for spreading traditional British values on human rights across Europe.

Since the UK will not chair the Council of Europe again until 2035, we will put party politics aside and work in the national interest to bring about a more efficient and effective human rights court. Labour will support the Government in its endeavours and measure its success against the tests I have set out here. But we will not sanction watering down the protection that the convention provides to the people of this country and beyond.

Sadiq Khan is shadow justice secretary


Sadiq Khan was born in 1970 in London, to a family of Pakistani immigrants. Don't you just love it when someone tries to be more British than the British? More Tory than the Tories? Sadiq Khan concludes that Labour will measure the Coalition success against the tests he has set out here. Just who does he think he is setting himself up above others where he decides if they come up to his standards? The tests he refers to are not even his own but those laid down by the Council of Europe. And the Council of Europe has already decided that first Labour and then the Coalition have failed to pass the Hirst test as laid down in Hirst v UK (No2) and reaffirmed in Frodl v Austria, Greens and MT v UK, and Scoppola v Italy.

"The Council of Europe: this is Britain’s human rights opportunity

Chairing the Council of Europe will provide an opportunity to push for more national freedom".

Britain's human rights opportunity was 60 years ago when we signed up to abide by the Convention, but then failed to incorporate it into domestic law.The UK is chair of the Committee of Ministers and not the Council of Europe. The UK surrendered some national freedom to join the European freedom club. Nationalism in Europe has not gone down too well since the Nazi regime invaded many countries in Europe. The only way that the UK will regain national freedom is to withdraw from the Council of Europe and European Union. As it stands the UK is but 1/47th of the Council of Europe and 1/27th of the EU. That is only 1 vote in each case and being chairman does not give the UK any more say than those countries exercising their votes.The European Court of Human Rights has been undergoing reform since 2002. Therefore, Sadiq Khan is clearly out of touch or is trying to mislead readers when he states that the Government needs to "press for reform of the court".

This need for reform of the Court is clearly spelt out in a letter to Jack Straw in 2004 when he was Foreign Secretary. Why didn't he act quickly and decisively way back then?

The margin of appreciation does not allow Member States to decide which human rights under the Convention it will abide by, nor which human beings are entitled to them. For example, it allows the UK to decide whether to put polling booths in prisons or whether to allow convicted prisoners the postal vote.

It is pathetic that first Kenneth Clarke, then Dominic Grieve and now Sadiq Khan attempt to minimise the UK's human rights abuse as operating social policy. Hitler's social policy was the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews, gypsies, etc, during World war 2. The UK has been found guilty of breaching convicted prisoners human rights to vote. The UK needs to be coming up with a final solution to the Hirst problem and not attempting to cover it up by calling it something else.

It is laughable that Sadiq Khan writes about our standing as champions of human rights. In 2010, the UK was found guilty of 10 human rights violations by the ECtHR. 3,500 of the 150,000 backlog of cases are from the UK.The subsidiarity principle requires that all of the Convention be incorporated into domestic law, and not just parts of it as with the HRA. The UK cannot secure human rights until Articles 1 and 13 are incorporated. It also requires the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary to act responsibily and not abdicate responsibility as has happened with the Prisoners Votes Case. The last Labour government failed to recognise this. That is why the Coalition is still stuck with the problem today.

Sadiq Khan should start to tell the truth rather than trying to rewrite history to suit his own ends. Europe does not want traditional British values spreading across Europe, when it includes ignoring peoples human rights. Europe has a far better standard laid out in the Convention, and the sooner the UK wakes up to this the better it will be for all concerned.

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