Tuesday, 9 July 2013

What's Right and What's a Right?

The ECHR is back in the news making controversial decision after controversial decision. Today it has been decided that life can never actually mean life and so even the most dangerous prisoners must have the chance of reprieve which is downright dangerous.

Michael Bamber killed 5 members of his whole family and yet his punishment may cease. This dangerous man could be released despite judges ruling he was too dangerous to contemplate that.

There are several great problems with the ECHR. The most tooted are the lack of legal expertise. Our human rights judge for example has never sat in a court and was selected by the politicians in the Council of Europe because he worked for them for 30 years. But there is of course the getting involved in civil rights aspects, voting for example is not a human right and therefore I have no idea how that was even brought up. There is a genuine problem that is faced by any court on the issue of human rights and that is what the hell are human rights?

This is a question which no one with any sanity has answered throughout the whole of world history. This is not just because rights are different things to different people with everything being absurd to people at one point or another. The range from stringent human rights laws to none generally results in at some point in theory and in specific cases of the mistreatment and deaths of lots of people. In Germany for example due to a ruling in the supreme court if there were a 911 style terrorist attack in the country the plane could not be blown up because the people who will die in the plane must have their life respected even if this kills many more people. Yet over in Russia you can be sent to a Gulag for no reason at all except on the whim of the dictatorial leaders  that have ruled there since time immemorial (note how carefully I avoided Godwins law). Even under what we would call moderate ideas of British Law we have tortured and detained those who have never had a trial and some who were found innocent when it did so.

Human Rights can cause problems themselves because the human condition doesn't have a clue. 

Human rights are frankly impossible for anyone to get correct almost any of the time and this may in part be based on the fact that case law is not really important to the ECHR or anyone else deciding rights. The ideas of morality and justice, which yet again are terms no one can ever come up with a right answer, are used instead.

The one definition of human rights that is widely acceptable.

So what is the alternative, could we be more successful in abolishing human rights and just having the rule of the government in the UK? The short answer is no; everything escapes through the net from time to time but as I outlined above this happens anyway. The longer answer is that there is probably more scope for this in our legal process. We have a lot of checks and balances in this country over the House of Commons from the House of Lords, the Queen, the courts and the civil service who make everything their business. With some extra tweaks, with more direct democracy, there are a lot of checks and balances that could lead to the government deciding what actually is a human right. A British Bill of Rights would be best for this as it allows all our checks and balances that are in some way accountable, unlike many of the European ones, to make a difference.

Adding more direct democracy to have further checks and balances in the UK will help but not solve the problem of what's a Right.

We're never going to have a perfect system of Rights but at least we can have one where it is possible to have a system that is accountable. You can vote out a government and get a judge to resign in this country and yet still have checks and balances that would lead to moderation. 

Perfection in the law is impossible but a British Bill of Rights will aid the answering of the impossible questions in individual cases.

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