At the last Full Council Meeting of Islington Council, Cllr Jean-Roger Kaseki (pictured) spoke passionately about the importance of human rights and the freedoms the Human Rights Act protects.
As the Government seeks to undermine this vital legislation, Cllr Kaseki called on the Council and others to fight to defend the Human Rights Act.
Cllr Kaseki's speech -
I am delighted to add my loud voice to support what has been said about our commitment to support the Human Rights Act.
Human rights are central part of our British values and this year we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and we should celebrate Britain’s role as guarantor of human rights and individual rights.
The Human Rights Act is a fundamental cornerstone to the civil liberties of British citizens and we should be proud of this human rights legislation
In the wake of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as we needed international human rights mechanisms, regional human rights mechanisms and national human rights mechanisms to be set up, therefore paving the way for defending, protecting and enforcing human rights worldwide.
Let me focus on the origins and machinery of the European human rights system to examine the relationship between the UK and the European Court of Human Rights following the Human Rights Act:
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is an international treaty drawn up within the Council of Europe, which was established in Strasbourg in 1949 in the course of the first post-war attempt to unify Europe. The United Kingdom was among the first states to ratify the ECHR and played a pivotal role in its creation. The UK accepted the right of individuals to take a case to Strasbourg and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in 1966.
The ECHR is a regional treaty of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After the Second World War when countries came together as the United Nations to say ‘never again’, they agreed a set of universal standards of decency for all human beings. These standards are intended to protect every one of us. They include our rights to life, not to be enslaved or forced into labour, to religious freedom, to a fair trial and not to be discriminated against. Let me remind this chamber that Conservative politicians contributed to enshrining these fundamental rights from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948.
On the European Court of Human Rights, in 1998, the right of individual petition and the jurisdiction of the Court were made compulsory for all states which are members of the ECHR. Since that time, the Strasbourg system has expanded hugely due to an influx of eastern and central European states whose membership of the Convention signalled a break with their authoritarian past. Forty-seven nations - some 800 million people - are now within the European human rights system, which is widely accepted as the most effective international regime for enforcing human rights in the world. No democracy has ever withdrawn from the Convention.
I am glad that in 1998, the then Labour Government introduced the Human Rights Act. This shows that we are serious about supporting human rights. Regarding the protection of human rights in the UK, the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) created a domestic scheme of human rights protection which preserves the distinct role of the judges at the same time as safeguarding parliamentary sovereignty. The HRA gives effect in domestic law to the fundamental rights and freedoms in the Convention. It makes available in UK courts a remedy for the breach of a Convention right, without the need to go to Strasbourg. It requires all public authorities to act compatibly with the ECHR, providing a basis for the development of a ‘human rights culture’ in public services across the UK.
The HRA meant that the European Convention of Human Rights was finally adopted into UK law nearly 50 years after it was drafted and polls indicate overwhelming public support for the rights guaranteed in the HRA and for the existence of legislation to protect human rights.
The HRA has achieved much already. It has held the state to account for spying on us; safeguarded our soldiers; and supported peaceful protest. It is helped rape victims; defended domestic violence sufferers; and guarded against slavery. It is protected those in care; shielded press freedom; and protected people from press intrusion into their personal lives.
That is why it is astonishing for this Tory Government to plan to repeal this successful legislation. This will have major implications on human rights as I am deeply concerned at the implications for individuals and institutions, not least because the European Convention of Human Rights forms a fundamental part of the devolution settlements for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act will do serious damage to EU standing, and I believe, undermine key elements of constitutional relationships within the UK, and seriously damage our standing within the European Union.
British sovereignty in relation to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg would decrease in the wake of a repeal, with increased supervision of the UK effectively making Strasbourg a court of first instance, with UK judges no longer able to influence the court’s decisions.
We need to lobby this Tory Government to pull back from implementing these damaging plans. We should protect the existing rights within the Human Rights Act, which has achieved so much and keep the UK in the European Convention.
We need to communicate human rights and unlike the Tories who want to deny human rights to our citizens by repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a Bill of Rights, those of us who are passionate and support human rights need somehow to reach beyond for more human rights awareness and advocacy in our communities and explain to people why human rights should matter to them and this is how we will defeat the Tories’ plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.
So, communicate human rights - stand-up for human rights - defend human rights.
At the last Full Council Meeting of Islington Council, Cllr Jean-Roger Kaseki (pictured) spoke passionately about the importance of human rights and the freedoms the Human Rights Act protects. As...