Friday, October 23, 2009

HRA, ECHR etc.

HRA, ECHR etc.

Michael White raises a point that I’ve seen a few times now in relation to the Conservatives’ proposal to replace the HRA with a ‘Bill of Rights’.

If a bill of rights does the same things as the HRA and still allows the right to (long-winded) appeals to Strasbourg why bother? If it doesn't, a Tory Britain would have to quit the ECHR and (in theory) the EU too.

This is, to put it charitably, nonsense.  There is no requirement in the ECHR for ratifying nations to embody the Declaration in a domestic statute (which is essentially what the HRA does), only that the abstract rights contained within the Declaration must be protected under the law of the ratifying nation.  Given that one of the prime inspirations for the ECR was the Bill of Rights of 1689, and given that it was largely drafted by British lawyers, there is no real question that British law prior to 1998 was in accordance with this requirement.

If, then, the HRA was scrapped altogether, we would simply return to the status as it was before 1998.  No abandonment of the ECHR would be necessary; no quitting of the EU.  It’s not a complicated point, and someone who likes to play the role of the all-knowing imparter of wisdom as much as White does really ought to know it already.

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