Last week Tom Watson MP (pictured left), chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones (APPG), launched a new front in the work of the Group (founded back in 2012). As a parliamentarian with an uncanny ability to spot human rights issues likely to make the headlines and which will hold extended media attention, the subject of drones (both in terms of the UK’s operation of them and its cooperation with the US) was always likely to grab Watson’s attention. But the reason Watson is so high-profile in his myriad pursuits, from trying to bounce Tony Blair into resigning, to vanquishing Rupert Murdock to needling the Government on its drone policy, is his grasp of the role of a backbench MP. Continue reading “Tom Watson’s Triumph? UK Communications Interception, Drone Strikes and the European Convention on Human Rights”
Gay rights issues, and particularly issues of equality of treatment for gay people living in the UK have created a flurry of headlines in recent months. In January, two of the conjoined cases Eweida v UK (Ladele v UK and McFarlane v UK) involved clashes between rights to religion (Article 9 ECHR) and equality legislation (now contained within the Equality Act 2010) protecting gay people from discrimination (protected under Article 14 ECHR). In these cases, the European Court of Human Rights noted that the claimants did have religious objections to being involved in civil partnerships as a registrar and in advising gay couples as a relationship counsellor, but found that the UK had needed to “balance” the competing interests. Continue reading “Would You Adam and Eve it? The DUP and the Gay Marriage Debate”
One of the little reported side effects of the UK general election of 2010 was the toll taken on one of Parliament’s most effective and independent bodies, the Joint Committee on Human Rights. This Committee, set up in the wake of the Human Rights Act 1998 coming into force, was intended to fulfil the role of Parliamentary watchdog, overseeing the compatibility of legislation and government acts with human rights norms and monitoring steps taken by government to conform to judicial decisions highlighting breaches of human rights by the United Kingdom.
The committee’s chairman, Andrew Dismore (Labour, pictured above), lost his Hendon seat by a mere 103 votes. Dismore led a vocal campaign in defence of the Human Rights Act against what he regarded as populist attacks from the left and right:
“What is wrong is the way that political leaders of all persuasions rush to judgement on human rights legislation. The Human Rights Act, like “Health & Safety” before it, is the scapegoat for unpopular decisions. It’s an easy target for politicians, having become an esoteric tool of the legal profession. Whether it’s giving hamburgers to roof protesters, failing to publish photos of escaped murderers, or any other urban myth, the Human Rights Act is at the root of it all.”