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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cameron to tell European human rights judges to 'stop meddling' in British justice

Cameron to tell European human rights judges to 'stop meddling' in British justice

By Simon Walters

David Cameron will this week confront European judges blamed for stopping the deportation of extremist Islamic cleric Abu Qatada and tell them: ‘Stop meddling in British justice.’

In a hard-hitting speech in Strasbourg, the home of the European Court of Human Rights, the Prime Minister will demand major reforms in the way the court is run.

He will say European judges must be more in touch with public opinion, accept more UK court rulings and let countries protect their own citizens and stop interfering in ‘petty’ cases.

Mr Cameron is determined to take advantage of the UK’s chairmanship of Europe’s Council of Ministers, which oversees the court, to force through a shake-up. The Prime Minister believes the court must reflect public opinion and take into account the cultural, historic and other differences between Strasbourg and individual nations.

He is understood to support a cut in the total of 47 judges – one from each member nation. And he wants new rules to ensure they are more in touch with public opinion.

At present, the judges are picked by the Council of Europe from a list of three names proposed by governments. Last year, a think-tank backed by Mr Cameron said that MPs should nominate judges to the court.

Any judge who wanted to sit would have to say whether they believed the court had too much power and explain ‘their outlook and judicial philosophy’.

Britain’s £150,000-a-year judge at the court, Sir Nicolas Bratza, the son of a Serbian concert violinist, is currently president of the organisation.

Sir Nicolas, 66, who steps down later this year, is a human rights enthusiast. As a barrister, he became a QC and was made a recorder, the most junior level of Crown Court judge, before going to Strasbourg as an official in 1993. He was made a High Court judge in 1998, but has never served in that role in England.

He has taken part in several cases that have caused outrage in Britain, including being a member of the court’s appeal body, the Grand Chamber. This ruled that axe killer John Hirst was wrongfully deprived of the vote when he was in prison. Mr Cameron said he felt ‘physically ill’ at the court’s support for Hirst’s campaign to give British prisoners the vote.

The court was set up in the Fifties largely to prevent a repeat of the human rights outrages of the Second World War. It ruled recently that having a TV satellite dish was a human right and it now has a backlog of thousands of cases. Its judgments are binding on member states.

Mr Cameron believes that cases should be vetted before they go to Strasbourg. He wants more decisions to rest with British courts and Parliament. And he wants the European Court of Human Rights to give up its power to rule on immigration cases.

He has rejected calls by Right-wing Tory MPs for Britain to pull out, but well-placed sources say this ‘remains an option’ if the court refuses to change.

Its critics have grown in recent years. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said recently while British courts must take heed of its rulings, they are not bound by them.

In a separate development, the Prime Minister and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will this week join forces against France at the Council of Europe to impose new cuts in red tape to boost EU trade.

In a phone call to the Prime Minister yesterday, Mrs Merkel pledged her support for his demand to boost jobs and commerce by reducing regulations blamed for strangling private companies.

Diplomats said the Anglo- German free trade alliance was designed to counter the threat of protectionist objections from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

It is the latest in a series of friendly overtures to Downing Street from Mrs Merkel since Mr Cameron’s controversial decision to veto a new EU treaty to stop it imposing new curbs on the City of London.


Cameron will not be telling the judges of the ECtHR anything because he is to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the ECtHR is a separate and independent institution. Therefore, it is incorrect to report that Cameron will confront the judges. The truth is all he will be doing is gobbing off to other European politicians.

David Cameron is not in a position to demand anything. The UK is but 1/47th of the Council of Europe, he can have his say but this is a far cry from allowing him to have his way. The ECtHR has been undergoing reform for at least the last 10 years as part of the Interlaken process, therefore it is meaningless for Cameron to demand reforms which are already being put into place. Basically, Cameron is just gobbing off for the sake of gobbing off. Empty vessels make the most noise.

David Cameron with his Eton and Oxford education is displaying what a narrow outlook on life he has. His call for the judges to take account of public opinion has already received short measure in Hirst v UK (No2):"There is, therefore, no question that a prisoner forfeits his Convention rights merely because of his status as a person detained following conviction. Nor is there any place under the Convention system, where tolerance and broadmindedness are the acknowledged hallmarks of democratic society, for automatic disenfranchisement based purely on what might offend public opinion". And Judge Caflisch underlines the view of the ECtHR: "...the decisions taken by this Court are not made to please or indispose members of the public, but to uphold human rights principles". It is laughable that Cameron expects the ECtHR to bow down to the court of public opinion. Bearing in mind that public opinion is largely based upon ignorance, prejudice and fear, and not upon reason.

The UK courts have shown that they are not up to protecting the human rights of citizens in the UK, therefore why should the highest court in Europe accept their inferior rulings? The UK has shown itself not to be capable of protecting their own citizens, so it is a good thing that the ECtHR provides a safeguard. It is a false claim to accuse the ECtHR of interfering in petty cases. Each case before the ECtHR alleges a human rights violation, therefore each case is of a serious nature. Just because the UK keeps being found guilty it tries to dismiss this as saying the Court is dealing with petty issues. It is petty of the UK to make such a false allegation.

The UK is presently the chairman of the Committee of Ministers and not chairman of the Council of Europe as misreported by Simon Walters who should have done his research. Also as the Court is independent, the Council of Europe does not oversee the Court as falsely claimed by Simon Walters. As already stated, Cameron is not going to force anything upon the other 46 Member States. The Council of Europe opposes dictators even those from Eton and Oxford! What the Prime Minister believes should be the case is not what those believing in human rights, democracy and rule of law believe is acceptable in Europe. The UK is a 4th world country and a failing State and is close to being deemed a rogue or pariah State slipping into totalitarianism or authoritarianism. In other words, a dictatorship.

The Court has a judge for each of the 47 Member States, nobody will support Cameron's call to reduce the number of judges. It will be seen as a xenophobic and racist attack upon foreign judges by the UK. Only the UK believes that British justice is the best in the world. If British justice was all its made out to be, why is the UK being found guilty so often in the ECtHR? Cameron's call to allow MPs to pick ECtHR judges will be seen as an attempt to pack the ECtHR with political appointees who care nothing for human rights. All 47 Member States agreed that the ECtHR should have the jurisdiction to decide human rights abuse. That the UK is claiming that the Court has too much power is just sour grapes from a human rights abusing nation. The British judge Sir Nicolas Bratza is referred to as "the son of a Serbian concert violinist" in the Mail on Sunday, is an oblique reference to his being foreign and not really British.

Martin Callaghan MEP on the Sunday Politics show spoke about the amount of guilty verdicts against the UK at the ECtHR, and tried to argue that because of these the ECtHR is wrong. The flaw in his argument is that the Court is right and that the UK is wrong to fail to protect the minimum standards of human rights.

I predict that PACE will send Cameron home with a flea in his ear. And if he then throws his dolly out of the pram, and states the UK will leave the Council of Europe then the country will vote the Tories out of power.

The Strasbourg Court is in urgent need of restraining

David Cameron must insist the European Court of Human Rights take a more modest view of its aims.

By Telegraph View

When the Prime Minister visits Strasbourg, the home of the European Court of Human Rights, he will, as we report today, remind the Court that it has extended i ts powers drastically over the past 25 years, over-ruling with increasing frequency decisions taken by national courts on cases which involve human rights. He will suggest that there are no grounds for the Court in Strasbourg to act as the ultimate court of appeal in a country, such as our own, with a well-developed legal system that has demonstrated its ability to incorporate respect for human rights into its decisions. Senior Conservative ministers would even like him to say that if the Court fails to reform, Britain should consider leaving its jurisdiction.

We are delighted that the Government is coming round to this view, which we have advocated for years. The tougher stance was precipitated by last week’s ruling from the Court that Britain was not entitled to deport Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim cleric, back to Jordan while there was even a small possibility that he might not get a fair trial in his native country. Our Law Lords had carefully considered that issue and decided that his deportation should proceed. This decision was overturned by the Strasbourg Court. Qatada is known to be a dangerous fanatic. Moreover, terrorists who support him have tried to ensure his release by taking people hostage and threatening to execute them unless he is released. Edwin Dyer, a British citizen, was killed three years ago in that way, when the Government, quite rightly, refused to be blackmailed by a group of the cleric’s supporters in Africa. Keeping Qatada in Britain exposes Britons to considerable risks, but that is not a factor which weighed with the European judges.

The Court sees its role as enforcing uniformity on human rights matters across all countries that have signed the European Convention. But there is no reason why every country should interpret the Convention in exactly the same way. Different cultures interpret rights in different ways: witness how differently the French balance the right to privacy and the right to free expression from the way that our judges do. It is wrong to think that either the French way or the British way of balancing those rights must be wrong, and that there must be a single procedure which respect for rights requires to be imposed everywhere. But this is precisely the approach the Strasbourg Court takes, when it over-rules our judges on how Qatada’s rights should be weighed against those of British citizens. The Convention was instituted in order to protect citizens from tyranny; there is more than one way to do that. Its point was never, and never should be, to ensure that countries have to expose their citizens to risk in order to ensure that foreign terrorists do not face the justice systems of their own countries.

The Prime Minister is right, then, to insist that the Court should take a more modest view of its aims, one that gives far greater scope for national courts to come to their own conclusions about how rights are to be interpreted and balanced. We hope he is successful in using Britain’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe to bring about a fundamental change in the Court. But if that proves to be impossible, then Britain must consider leaving, not the European Convention on Human Rights, but the flawed jurisdiction of the Strasbourg Court.


Alarm bells ring in my head when a country with a bad human rights record like the UK has seeks to restrain the court judging the UK to be abusing human rights. There is also an issue of the Telegraph supporting human rights abuse and supporting the dictator David Cameron.

The ECtHR exercises the jurisdiction agreed by all 47 Member States including the UK. Any extension of jurisdiction was agreed by the UK by way of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty and signing up to the Interlaken process.

If the UK does not want the ECtHR to overrule our courts, then the UK must ensure that all citizens get their minimum human rights under the Convention. The ECtHR has ruled that our courts fail to provide an effective remedy under Article 13 of the Convention. We are a failing State. But for the ECtHR acting as a safeguard people in the UK would be dependent upon the government to hand out privileges like crumbs off the table.

The issue is not Qatada’s rights should be weighed against those of British citizens, but instead ensuring that Qatada's rights are not abused by the State. The public do not come into an issue between an individual v the State. It is cowardly for the Telegraph, and politicians to try to hide behind public opinion. The Court in Hirst v UK (No2) has already excluded public opinion. The Court's role is to protect human rights and not pander to public opinion, which tends to be based upon ignorance, prejudice and fear.

The other 46 Member States are looking forward to the Witney village idiot's comic performance. The other Member States support human rights and the ECtHR. They will be defending the Court's right based upon sound reasoning to judge human rights violations against a dictator who states it makes him feel physically ill to give human beings their human rights.

The Telegraph is losing credibility after its success exposing MPs expenses fiddling, by supporting human rights violations.

British justice should not be over-ruled by the European Court of Human Rights

David Cameron is right to push for reform of this European Court, but outraged Tory MPs may want him to go further.

By Iain Martin

Why does David Cameron want to reform the European Court of Human Rights?

The court’s decision last week that Abu Qatada, the radical cleric and al-Qaeda supporter, could not be deported to Jordan to face trial in case his human rights were infringed has infuriated the Prime Minister. Strasbourg’s decision over-turned a ruling by Britain’s own Law Lords. In a long-awaited speech in Strasbourg this week Mr Cameron will argue that the European Court of Human Rights should be much less intrusive, allowing national courts more leeway to take decisions. The court is also a shambles; there are tens of thousands of cases backed up, many of them from Eastern Europe. Mr Cameron will suggest measures that mean fewer cases have to be dealt with by Strasbourg. The problem for the government is that many Conservative MPs, and many voters, are not interested in reforms which streamline the process. They see it in terms of basic sovereignty and are appalled British justice can be over-ruled by a court based abroad.

How did Britain get itself into this mess?

There is a great deal for which the European Union deserves the blame, but in this case it isn’t the guilty party. The current row over human rights legislation has its origins in the aftermath of World War Two. The United Kingdom was one of the founding signatories of the European Convention of Human Rights, which was created by the newly-formed European Council. The European Court of Human Rights was established to enforce the Convention and give citizens a court they could trust. The aim was to encourage the recognition of legal and human rights in other countries emerging from a dark period of tyranny. But gradually the court has grown in power.

Did the Human Rights Act make it worse?

Yes. In 1998 New Labour introduced the Human Rights Act, which forced judges to make their judgments compatible with the rights accorded in the Convention. It also allowed Britons to bring cases in courts here when they claimed those rights had been breached. The result has been a wave of controversial cases in which the outcomes seem to defy common sense. The killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence could not be deported to Italy on his release from prison because his “family life” was here, and nine Afghan hijackers who forced a plane to land at Stansted were allowed to remain in the country. The Home Secretary wants to scrap the HRA, and in opposition the Prime Minister promised to replace it with a British bill of rights to assert the primacy of domestic law.

So why doesn’t David Cameron get on with it?

His Coalition partner Nick Clegg won’t let him scrap the HRA or ignore the European Court of Human Rights. Mr Clegg has an ally in Ken Clarke, the pro-European Justice Secretary. In an effort to find a compromise, the Government appointed a commission to look at how a bill of rights might be drafted. But its membership is split between those appointed by the Lib Dems, who essentially want to keep the current set-up, and members chosen by the Tories who advocate reform. This gridlock means that Number 10 has decided as a first step to focus on proposing reforms of the way the European Court of Human Rights operates, something even Mr Clarke can sign up to.

So they are kicking it into the long grass?

Hardline critics say yes. But ministers claim it is a difficult situation not of their making and say that they are trying find practical ways to deal with it. Their hope is that a new generation of British judges can be encouraged to take a more robust position in their rulings and worry less about offending Strasbourg. They also hope Mr Cameron’s proposed reforms of the court will gather support from other European countries. A minister says: “The Prime Minister’s speech is the start of a diplomatic drive. It won’t be done in a few months but we are pushing strongly for reform.”

Will that satisfy the Tory party?

No. The Abu Qatada verdict feels like it could be the final straw, and the outrage of Tory MPs is matched by anger in Number 10. If Mr Cameron’s efforts at change get nowhere, expect the pressure to grow on him to go into the next election promising not only the repeal of the HRA but even British withdrawal from the unreformed Convention. A great many voters would agree with such a policy. It could be a big vote winner for the Tories.


Given that the ECtHR has been undergoing reforms for the past 10 years as part of the Interlaken process agreed by all 47 Member States, Iain Martin asks the wrong question "Why does David Cameron want to reform the European Court of Human Rights?". It follows that Iain Martin's answer is also wrong.

Our little Hitler or Napoleon in Dad's Army, David Cameron, says he is infuriated. That's tough. The ECtHR is right to overrule when our courts fail to protect human rights. Cameron's visit to Strasbourg is akin to tilting at windmills. If the UK wants the ECtHR to be less intrusive, then our courts must provide an effective remedy against State human rights abuses. Until this happens the courts will not be given any leeway. 3,500 of the backlog of cases at the ECtHR are from convicted prisoners in the UK denied their human right to vote. Russia is moving in the right direction, ie, moving forward towards democracy, whereas the UK is going backwards and sliding into a dictatorship. All 47 Member States have agreed that individual applications to the ECtHR should still be allowed, and this will dictate how many and which cases go to Strasbourg. If the UK wants to see less cases at the ECtHR then the UK must abide by the Convention and Court decisions. Simples! The UK sacrificed sovereignty in relation to human rights, it cannot claim the right to abuse human rights just because we are British. I am more appalled that we do not protect human rights, and that it is shameful that our citizens have to go to Strasbourg for justice because British justice dispenses injustice not justice.

Britain got itself into this mess because it failed to honour its obligations under international and European law. Either The UK is in or out of Europe. It cannot continue to be both in and out when it suits the UK. Europe is right to get tough with the UK for being a rogue or pariah State.

The HRA has improved matters somewhat. However, the failure to incorporate Article 1 and Article 13 of the Convention, allowing all citizens the rights under the Convention and an effective remedy by a national authority for their breach, means that the HRA is toothless. It protects Supremacy of Parliament when its purpose was to protect the citizens human rights against abuse by the State. The cases under the HRA are not controversial. The media which has its own agenda to scrap Article 8 to allow the media to invade privacy, uses Article 10 to protect its freedom of speech. The problem is that the media abuses this right to campaign to allow human rights abuses to go unchecked in the UK. Therefore, the media is as guilty as the State for abusing human rights. A British Bill of Rights is xenophobic and racist. We are a multicultural nation and if a new Bill of Rights is needed, it does not need the word British in front of it. Moreover, a Bill of Rights which only allows rights dependent upon responsibilities is not a Bill of Rights because politicians would decide what our responsibilities are upon a whim. Moreover, what about Ministerial responsibilities? Was it responsible for MPs and member of the House of Lords to fiddle their expenses? As it stands Cameron's plan for a Bill of Rights would not pass muster in Europe.

The mistake both the Tories and LibDems made was to allow Labour to kick dealing with the Prisoners Votes Case into the long grass. Therefore, this problem is of their making for not ensuring that Labour dealt with it when in power. It is a simple case both the Venice Commission and Electoral Commission have said so. What makes it difficult is any attempt to deviate from the judgment, it then becomes a legal minefield. The only practical way to deal with it is to amend s.3 of ROPA 1983 to make it compatible with Article 3 of the First Protocol of the Convention and to fully comply with Hirst v UK (No2). The UK has already corrupted the UKSC by appointing Jonathan Sumption QC above more competent and experienced judges. He was appointed to act as goalkeeper for the Secretary of State, and to allow human rights abuses to continue. Cameron will get as much support as he did when he vetoed the EU recently. Billy No Mates of Europe. If this is Cameron's diplomatic drive, then its a car crash waiting to happen. What is being ignored here is that Europe is demanding reforms in the UK. Meanwhile the UK is only talking about reform of the ECtHR, when the Interlaken Declaration requires reforms in Member States. The UK is a failing State.

The country is bigger than the Tory party. Who cares what disgruntled Tory backbenchers say? I hope that Cameron goes into the next election claiming to scrap the HRA and leave the Council of Europe. He has misread the position. I suspect the next election will be Labour/LibDem coalition.


Anonymous said...

Criminals shouldn't get a vote, they don't respect the human rights of their victims so why should they have any. We should tear up all agreements with Europe. Lets have the referendum and boot the EU into touch!

jailhouselawyer said...

Of course they should because the highest court in Europe has ruled that they should. The ECHR and HRA are concerned with State abuse of human rights. The criminal law deals with criminals conduct towards their victims. The ECHR is separate to the EU. No doubt you will be in favour of Cameron's plan to scrap the HRA. If he succeeds, don't come crying to me when your human rights then get abused...