Realpolitik (see also Political realism; from German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic premises. In this respect, it shares aspects of its philosophical approach with those of realism and pragmatism.
"Manchmal werden Leute den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht sehen."

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

028: The Human Rights Act: Stay or go?

The Human Rights Act (1998) has been called into question rather too frequently of late. Realpolitik poses the question: 'Should the act stay or go?'

- Human Rights Mural outside the public education building in Bayramic, Turkey

Stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act aims to provide all citizens of the United Kingdom with a guarantee of a strict code of basic human rights to protect them from misuse or abuse from government agencies or the judiciary, such as the illegal installation of CCTV in Birmingham under terrorism laws earlier this year.

The Human Rights Act is a symbol of our developed society, that we value the rights of our fellow human beings, that we ultimately show a sense of dignity and care for our fellow man. Even if the current form of the act were to be repealed as Theresa May is proposing, a commission of 7 lawyers, an academic and a civil servant is currently researching the possibility of replacing it with a bill of rights for the United Kingdom.

Furthermore inevitable questions will have to be answered to the European courts of human rights over such action. The coalition agreement set out in the summer of last year also prohibits the removal of the human rights act without its replacement equalling or bettering its predecessor. This therefore limits the action that can be inflicted upon the current legislation. Any update would likely only see additions, or restructuring of the current ECHR into a more UK-focused direction.

Legislation such as ECHR also serves to ensure an unbiased, generalised duty of care and equality towards those who otherwise may receive unequal treatment. For instance it lends a legislative crutch of support to the maligned sections and minorities of society and ensures fair trial, treatment and access to social rights, such as allowing prisoners the right to vote.

Those arguing against the Human Rights Act have focused their attentions largely on how the legislation in its current form can be easily misconstrued to serve the needs of individuals who may have broken other laws. One instance is seen in the case of Aso Mohammed Ibrahim in 2003, who struck a young infant in his car. Once charged and sentenced for this crime he was due to be deported, yet won the right to stay in the UK as he had a two children with a British woman living in the country.

Critics of ECHR point to cases such as these as a clear defiance of other existing legislation. They argue that the banner of 'human rights' has been used by those seeking to escape either punishment or further punishment.

Theresa May made reference in her speech at the Conservative conference to one case to the case of an immigrant due for deportation, who had successfully resisted his return to his native land on the grounds that he had a pet cat. This was duly challenged by the judiciary and Kenneth Clarke, who claimed "I'll have a small bet with her that nobody has ever been refused deportation on the grounds of ownership of a cat."

There are some who also claim that withdrawal from the ECHR could point towards a wider withdrawl from the European Union, though this seems highly unlikely.

Our view
Regarding cases such as those of Mr Ibrahim above, while highlighting issues surrounding the legislation in its current format, do they warrant an alteration to the entirety of the human rights we currently enjoy? Such cases can create ill-thought out drastic responses, which are justified such in the hope that the masses will mindlessly agree with a blind, misinformed and apathetic disregard until the bridges are burnt, and the realisation of their sacrifice has dawned. Ignorant comments such as those made by MP Conor Burns that those in opposition (such as Deputy PM Nick Clegg) should be merely ignored as this move is 'debated' are of concern.

To repeal the human rights act without adequate replacement - whilst against the coalition agreement as stated previously - would signal a clear disregard on behalf of the government for their fellow man, and provide illustration that the current leadership incumbents showed little consideration for the electorate as a whole collection of equal beings. Their failed attempt to prevent prisoners from having the right to vote, quashed earlier this year by the EU courts, was perhaps was an indicator. Whilst in its current form the ECHR may not be perfect, the notion that this requires the act to be repealed is absurd. That any replacement is likely to be relatively similar to its predecessor, is therefore perhaps a blessing.

But what do you think?

- Realpolitik -

1 comment:

  1. Good article + very informative

    Mo x