The UK government is looking to reform human rights legislation after our divorce with the EU. They want to replace the Human Rights Act with a modern Bill of Rights, “one which reinforces our freedoms under the rule of law, but also provides a clearer demarcation of the separation of powers between the courts and Parliament”.
In December they produced a document – a consultation to reform the Human Rights Act 1998. I am all for reform, if it is done for the right reasons and in the right way, but there are some worrying parts of the document which I will go through below. All emphasis is my own.
On page 35 it discusses “a ‘rights culture’ that displaces personal responsibility and the public interest”. It says –
“the international human rights framework recognises that not all rights are absolute and that an individual’s rights may need to be balanced, either against the rights of others or against the wider public interest. Many of the rights in the Convention are ‘qualified’, recognising explicitly the need to respect the rights of others and the broader needs of society”.
I’m sure we all agree that we should respect other people’s rights and consider the broader needs of society. However, these considerations should not trump an individual’s rights which should remain fundamental in a free society. Any talk of changing laws or removing individual’s rights for the greater good, public interest or the needs of society, has never resulted in good outcomes.
The document continues –
“The idea that rights come alongside duties and responsibilities is steeped in the UK tradition of liberty, but is also reflected in the qualifications in the Convention and is explicit in Article 29 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (‘Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible’). The increasing reliance on human rights claims over the years has, however, led to a culture of rights decoupled from our responsibilities as citizens, and a displacement of due consideration of the wider public interest”.