As yet another media story details how the Human Rights Act prevents ‘undesirables’ being deported from the UK, the team here at Leigh Day have decided it is time for us to regularly update on why the Human Rights Act should stay on our statute books. ‘Its your Act’ is our response to what we feel is the deliberate misinformation being peddled to undermine a piece of legislation which is our defence against tyranny at all levels and should be valued rather then perpetually decried.
Reading the coverage of the case of Keno Forbes, a drug dealer from Jamaica, who has won his recent appeal to remain in the UK on the basis of his right to respect for private and family life (Article 8) it doesn’t surprise me the level of anti-human rights sentiment in the public domain.
Unfortunately there is scant coverage of the exact details from the case, but we know he has a wife and children who would suffer consequences if their father/husband were to be deported.
Hopefully it is safe to assume that the children (at the very least) are innocent parties and surely we want to live in a society that places great emphasis on the protection of innocent parties?
Online comments on the coverage of the Forbes case repeatedly state their disdain at the protection the Human Rights Act afforded a criminal; one commenter states “He has no Human Rights, he is a drug dealer” , with many other similar postings reflecting the same view.
As mentioned above, there were rights of others involved in this case, but more importantly we should be very careful about any limitations on which humans have human rights and which humans are not worthy of their protection.
The rights protected in the Human Rights Act stem from the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Convention was drafted after the Second World War, with the horrors and atrocities committed fresh in the minds of those seeking to cement in international and national law a framework to protect the human rights of their citizens.
This year will see the commemoration of the start of the First World War and perhaps should serve as a reminder of the importance of having learned lessons from the past. War and human rights abuses sadly remain endemic across the world and to call for an end to these abuses in places such as Syria and the Central African Republic, we must maintain our commitment to protecting these rights in our own country.
In my view this commitment includes affording every human within our borders, no matter their personal circumstances and history, access to the protections afforded by the Human Rights Act.
This includes Mr Forbes even though he is a convicted “drug dealer”. It is often forgotten that only one of the rights protected by the Act is absolute and that is the right to be free from torture and inhumane or degrading treatment, even the right to life contains a caveat (albeit rightly very limited).
The rest of the rights, including the freedom of speech, right to respect for private and family life, and the right to be free from discrimination, are all limited and can be lawfully infringed if, for example, it is necessary to protect the rights of others including protecting the public interest. With this in mind is it really so worrying that everyone is entitled to rely on these rights?
Without the Act to protect our rights, all of us will lose the rights and freedoms it enshrines in our law and with it, we would also lose some of our ability to condemn failures of overseas Governments to afford their citizens human rights protections.
This is not in itself a reason to keep our Act, but alarm bells should ring whenever the phrase ‘Scrap the Act’ is heard and I hope one day we will be as proud of our Human Rights Act as US citizens are of their Bill of Rights.