Do foreign policy and human rights mix?

The Foreign Secretary William Hague has sought in today’s Daily Telegraph to re-emphasise the “centrality of human rights in the core values” of UK foreign policy. On the face of it, this is a laudable aim. But does it really mean anything? And may it in fact amount to an unrealisable promise?

The editorial evokes Mr Hague’s early commitment to put human rights at the “irreducible core” of UK foreign policy. This pledge has been questioned recently due to the potential reduction in scope of the Foreign Office’s annual human rights report. Mr Hague addresses this directly, although with little new detail:

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Environmental judicial review is “prohibitively expensive”, uncertain and insufficient

A Geneva-based international committee has just said (provisionally) that domestic judicial review law is in breach of international law in environmental cases. Why? And does it matter? In this post we will try and explain why, and suggest that it does matter.

On 25 August 2010, the UN-ECE Aarhus Compliance Committee issued draft rulings in two long-running environmental challenges which, if confirmed, may have wide implications for how environmental judicial reviews are conducted in the UK. A key finding was that such challenges were “prohibitively expensive” to mount and this puts the UK in breach of its “access to justice” obligations under Article 9(4) of the Aarhus Convention. In addition, the Committee ruled that the UK’s grounds for judicial review of the substantive legality of decisions were too narrow, and said that the domestic rules as to timing of these challenges were insufficiently certain.

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Increasing prison numbers could save money, says report

A new report from the think-tank Civitas argues that increasing community sentences and cutting prison numbers will lead to more crime and add to costs too.

This is contrary to the the view of the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who has argued recently that there is no link between the rising level of imprisonment and falling crime.

The report, Prison, Community Sentencing and Crime, is by Ken Pease, a professor at the Manchester Business School and a former Home Office criminologist. It does not present any significant new research; rather, it seeks to put the other side of the debate on prison numbers, in light of the “apparently concerted attempt to justify an increasing use of community sanctions in place of custody for convicted criminals”.

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Widow of 7/7 bomber refused legal aid for inquest

Patel, R (on the application of) v Lord Chancellor [2010] EWHC 2220 (Admin) (27 August 2010) – Read judgment

The wife of the purported ringleader of the ’7/7′ London bombings has failed in her judicial review of the Lord Chancellor’s decision to refuse her funding for legal representation at the inquest into the bombings.

Ms Sumaiya Patel, the former wife of Mohammed Sidique Khan, had her initial application for funding to the Lord Chancellor refused. She sought a ruling from the High Court to quash that decision.

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Human Rights news roundup

Hoovering up the latest human rights news

We recently started adding links to interesting new articles and case-law on the right the sidebar under the heading “Selected news sources”.

These articles now appear on our Twitter feed (@ukhumanrightsb) and Facebook fan page too. Below is a quick rundown of some of the most recent stories. The full list of links can be found here.

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High Court judge says legal aid tender was a “dreadful decision”

Updated 27 Aug  (17:15)  | A High Court judge has branded the Legal Service Commission’s recent and highly controversial tender for legal aid work as a “dreadful” and potentially irrational decision.

The comments of Mr Justice Collins came in a permission hearing (i.e., only the first stage of a two-part process) on the application by the Community Law Partnership to judicially review the LSC’s recent tender, and specifically the rejection of CLP’s own application. It appears from a Law Society Gazette article that the hearing was adjourned, with the judge warning the LSC to consider its position carefully, and that if it fights and loses the decision could set a dangerous precedent. The hearing is to resume in around a week and a half.

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Germany HIV popstar conviction: what would happen in the UK?

Updated, 1 Sep | The high-profile criminal trial of a German popstar who caused her former partner to be infected with HIV has resulted in a 2-year suspended sentence. In other words, she has been convicted but escaped jail. What would happen in similar circumstances in the UK?

The facts of Nadja Benaissa’s case were relatively simple. She had been infected with HIV since the age of 16 and is 28 years old now. She had sex with three people without telling them she was infected, and as a result one of them became infected himself. She claimed that she did not intend to infect him, and that she had been told by doctors the risk of passing on the disease were “practically zero”.

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