New report on worldwide human rights and democracy

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched the Human Rights and Democracy- The 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, which aims to provide “a comprehensive look at the human rights work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) around the world in 2011“. The report makes for essential reading for anyone with an interest in human rights at the global level.

The report contains a section devoted to the Arab Spring, which it describes as being “about citizens demanding their legitimate human rights and dignity” and having “no single cause“. The report also comments on the role of human rights protection in safeguarding Britain’s national security and promoting Britain’s prosperity.

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More Brighton analysis, tweeting in court, and vulnerable defendants – The Human Rights Roundup

Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly buffet of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.

In the news

A mixed bag this week: Theresa May remained in the news over Abu Qatada, a number of people blogged on the Brighton Declaration, and the issue of cameras and tweeting in court was high on the agenda. Closer to home, a team from 1 Crown Office Row is walking the London Legal Walk to raise funds for the London Legal Support Trust, the Free Representation Unit and the Bar Pro Bono Unit, so if you like the UKHRB, please sponsor them here.

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Hate speech and the meaning of “unacceptable behaviour”

Raed Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department IA/21/21631/2011 – read judgment

1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.

Late last year I posted about the case of Mr Mahajna, a national of Israel (but of Palestinian origin), who appealed against a deportation order issued by the Home Secretary under section 3(5) of the Immigration Act 1971 on the basis that his presence in the United Kingdom was not conducive to public good. To recap:

  1. The Government has a list of “Unacceptable Behaviours” which forms the basis of its policy on excluding non-nationals under that provision. This includes actions expressing views which are likely to foster hatred and lead to inter-community violence in the UK (this policy was recent the focus of judicial consideration in the Court of Appeal in the case of R (Naik) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWCA Civ 1546).
  2. The Home Secretary relied on five pieces of evidence which were said to fall within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviours and justify her conclusion that Mr Mahajna’s presence was not conducive to the public good.
  3. The First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) examined those pieces of evidence. It concluded that the Home Secretary was entitled to conclude that they constituted examples of unacceptable behaviour and fell within the scope of the exclusion policy.
  4. Although the order to deport Mr Mahajna constituted an interference with his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) because he was unable to carry out a number of public speaking engagements in the UK, the views of the Home Secretary as to what was in the public interest were entitled to significant weight in assessing whether or not that interference was proportionate.
  5. The FTT ultimately concluded that the interference was proportionate, and the deportation order was upheld. Continue reading

Consultation on children’s heart surgery was lawful, rules Court of Appeal

Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, R (on the application of) v Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts & Anor [2012] EWCA Civ 472 – Read judgment.

Marina Wheeler of 1 Crown Office Row appeared for the successful Appellant in this case. She is not the author of this post

When is reorganisation of healthcare services unlawful? When can consultation, rather than a final decision, successfully be challenged? These were the questions dealt with by the Court of Appeal in relation to the reconfiguration of paediatric heart surgery services. The Bristol Royal Infirmary scandal had left these services in need of change; the Court of Appeal found that there was nothing unlawful in the consultation process resulting in the Royal Brompton failing to be chosen as one of the two specialist centres in London.

Following the failures in Bristol that were subject to a public inquiry in 1998, there have been a number of reports on paediatric heart surgical care. This is an extremely specialised area of medicine. The recent trend has been for such specialist areas (another example is major trauma care) to become concentrated in fewer hospitals: the principle being that when professionals come into contact with such work more regularly they become better at it; spreading such cases wide and thin results in poor outcomes.

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Is climate change a human rights issue?


In his thought-provoking Guardian post Climate change is a human rights issue – and that’s how we can solve it, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, makes a case for human rights playing a radical new part in our response to climate change.

His argument involves a number of propositions:

(i) global climate talks have reached an impasse;

  • yes, indeed, and from today’s perspective, there is no obvious way through that impasse;

(ii) carbon emissions cannot possibly be stalled or reversed until our politicians recognise that continued economic growth is inconsistent with a long-term climate change strategy;

  • many would agree that we can spend a bit of time deck-chair re-arranging or limiting increases in emissions, but the time will come when the world economies have to stop growing;

(iii) if that direction is not going to come from our politicians, then

 those political processes are clearly not fit for purpose.

Does this mean that democracy has failed, and must be sacrificed for authoritarian solutions? The solution may in fact be the polar opposite. A system where failing governance procedures are forced to think long-term does not necessarily require anti-democratic “climate tzars”. Instead, this revolution can be hyper-democratic and guided by human rights.

Climate change represents an enormous threat to a whole host of human rights: the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to development. There is therefore huge scope for human rights courts and non-judicial human rights bodies to treat climate change as the immediate threat to human rights that it is. Such bodies could therefore take government policy to task when it is too short-sighted, too unambitious, or too narrowly focused on its own constituents at the expense of those elsewhere. Fossil fuel miningdeforestation, the disturbance of carbon sinks, and the degradation of the oceans are developments that can be blocked on human rights grounds.

Whoa, slow down!

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Ban on Christian advertising was lawful, says court

London Christian Radio Ltd and Anor v Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) and Secretary of State for Culture – read judgment

The High Court has upheld the refusal of the broadcasting regulator to clear an advertisement for transmission on the grounds that it offended the prohibition on political advertising.

This restriction, said Silber J, was a necessary one for the purposes of Article 10(2) of the European Convention. The purpose of the ban on political advertising was to protect the public from the potential mischief of partial political advertising, and the views of the advertiser, as to whether an advertisement was political, were irrelevant. Continue reading

Irrational, inhuman and degrading: detention of a mentally ill asylum-seeker was unlawful

R (on the application of HA (Nigeria)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 979 (Admin) – Read judgment

The detention of a mentally ill person in an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment and false imprisonment, and was irrational, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Singh heard a judicial review application by a Nigerian National against decisions to continue to detain him under the UK Borders Act 2007 and the conditions of that detention. From August 2009, HA, an overstaying visitor and asylum seeker, was detained at various IRCs following his release from prison for a drug-related offence which triggered the automatic deportation provisions of the 2007 Act. His behaviour during detention became increasingly disturbed and strange. In January 2010, he was seen by a psychiatrist who recommended HA’s transfer to a mental hospital for assessment and treatment.

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