In 1950, as Europe came out of a period where a knock on the door from the Gestapo was something that many millions remembered only too well, the European Convention on Human Rights was drafted.

Most of that drafting work was done by British lawyers, and the UK was the first country to sign it. It is the most effective treaty protecting human rights in the world, and in 1998 the UK decided to incorporate much of it into its own domestic law.

How appalling it is then that we now have a UK government that apparently thinks that we need to get rid of legislation on human rights, partially I suspect because the Convention has the word “European” in the title.


There are those within the Conservative Party who don't like the idea of a European Court being able to have an influence on the law of the UK. The logical conclusion of that would be for the UK to withdraw from every international treaty and the United Nations itself which no doubt would appeal to the nationalist and separatist elements within the party.

The reality is that the courts of the UK are not bound by the Convention itself except where those rights are specifically enshrined in the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998. It tells you something about where society is that human rights have become a dirty word. In most countries, rights are to be cherished; in the UK they are apparently to be ditched.

Those who criticise the European Convention usually point to the wonders of law in the UK and its alleged ability to protect the rights of individuals. In fact, before the Human Rights Act 1998 people had very few rights. What we have instead is a system not of rights but where anything is allowed unless it is specifically banned by a UK Parliament, elected by the minority of the people and subject to no laws itself.

I do not believe that this is a sufficient way of protecting those rights.

It’s one thing to have a right enshrined in law, it's quite another to be allowed to do something on the sufferance of an institution. The UK did not have a culture based on the idea of the fundamental rights of an individual. That largely came about as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Getting rid of the Human Rights Act in 1998 has long been a Tory bugbear. I remember when I was First Minister, a working group was set up under Ken Clarke to look at replacing the act. After a great deal of debate and consultation they decided that they couldn't do better than what was already there.  Nothing was done as a result. And nothing has changed since then to make it necessary to tinker with human rights legislation.

The National Wales: The Justice Secretary has insisted human rights laws reforms will “strengthen” freedoms and “curtail” abuses of the system, amid claims the move threatens how “ordinary people” challenge those in power. Photo: PAThe Justice Secretary has insisted human rights laws reforms will “strengthen” freedoms and “curtail” abuses of the system, amid claims the move threatens how “ordinary people” challenge those in power. Photo: PA

If you listen to Dominic Raab, he seems driven by what happened to the Mail on Sunday in the case with Meghan Markle. Is he really suggesting now the entire law on human rights should be replaced in order to please a newspaper? In the absence of any other explanation, it seems to be the case.

What's more worrying though is his obsession with fighting culture wars using human rights as a weapon. He has been quoted as saying that he wants to reform the law to protect us against “ wokery and political correctness”. I shudder to think what his view would have been on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it was published. No doubt he would have seen it as an interference in the UK’s sovereignty.  He is also keen on saying that in order to protect freedom of expression we have to unravel human rights law. Surely in order to protect the right to free expression, that right has to be expressed in law? Without the Human Rights Act that wouldn't exist.

The reality is that this is just another attempt to remove accountability from themselves. The UK government is already trying to change the law so they can ignore the courts and now by looking to remove fundamental human rights protections, they are creating a situation where if people are wronged by the state then they will have no come back. Again, it's back to this idea that people will only be allowed to do what the UK government tells him they can do rather than people having fundamental rights that cannot be interfered with by a government that does not respect them.

Assaults on human rights tend to come from totalitarian or authoritarian regimes. What a shame it is then that the UK government seems hellbent on joining their company and removing the freedoms and rights that we have enjoyed for more than 20 years. No longer will the UK be able to urge other countries to respect human rights within their own borders because the UK itself won't be doing that.

For that reason, the UK will be a less free, less influential state, the opposite of what Dominic Raab says he wants to achieve.

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