More on Assange, rape and the right to die – The Human Rights Roundup

Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly smörgåsbord 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.

The news
This week has been dominated by the figure of Julian Assange, with many UK-based legal bloggers commenting on the many aspects of his case, not least in relation to the question of extradition to the US and diplomatic protection by Ecuador. There has also been a very sad conclusion to the right-to-die campaign by Tony Nicklinson, which is that he refused food and passed away on Thursday.

Equality, human rights and religion or belief: time to get out of the courtroom? – Alice Donald

The interaction between the law and religion or belief is rarely out of the headlines. Debate rages about whether Article 9, the human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, receives sufficient – or too much – protection in the courts.  There has been a considerable amount of litigation, much of it contentious (see, for example, here, here and here

A new report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) by researchers at London Metropolitan University, including myself, explores these controversies. It is based largely on interviews and roundtable discussions with around 100 religion or belief groups, human rights and/or equality organisations, employers, public service staff, academics and lawyers. It is concerned as much with differing perceptions and understandings of the law as with the law itself. It also examines the practical application of the law in the workplace and public services.

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Is compulsory regulation of the print media compatible with Article 10 ECHR? – Hugh Tomlinson QC

One of the possibilities being considered by Lord Justice Leveson as he writes the Report for Part 1 of his Inquiry is whether there should be compulsory regulation of the print media.   One, widely discussed possibility is a statutory framework which would require any publisher with turnover or readership above a set threshold to join a “regulatory body”: compulsory regulation for large publishers. 

The purpose of such a provision would be to  deal with the so-called “Desmond problem” – the anomaly of a system of regulation which does not cover all the large newspaper publishers. But an important freedom of expression question arises: is the compulsory regulation of the print media compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights?  This is not a question which has ever been considered by the Court of Human Rights and the answer may not be an entirely straightforward.

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The Assange Reality Distortion Field

It was once said of Apple’s Steve Jobs that he could convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, and persistence. Following Jobs’ untimely death, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has taken over the mantle of his patented Reality Distortion Field.

It would seem (on Twitter at least) that you are now either with Assange or against him. To be with him is to believe that he is in the throes of an international conspiracy involving, but not limited to, the British Government, courts, the Swedish Government, his rape (not bad sexual etiquette) accusers, of course the Americans and possibly the saucer people too. To be in the other (artificially exaggerated) camp is to not automatically believe that his Swedish accusers have been concocted by a dastardly international conspiracy, but rather that their accusations should be met with (whisper it) due process. Moreover, Assange has had his days in court, all the way to the UK Supreme Court, and now must face his accusers.

Since Assange happens to be in the UK (well, technically in Ecuador I suppose), the UK legal blogging community has taken it upon itself to bring reality back into line. Not since the Freemen of the Land has a legal issue generated a series of counter-woo posts of such quality, and after this rather lengthy introduction, all I seek to do is link to them with approval:

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“No precedent? Then set one!” – Nicklinson right to die case

Updated – Tony Nicklinson, one of the two claimants in this case, died on 22 August 2012.

This is Richard Dawkin’s battle cry in response to the recent High Court rejection of the challenge by locked-in sufferers to the murder and manslaughter laws in this country that have condemned them to an unknowable future of suffering.

As explained in my previous posts, Nicklinson, who suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2005, argued for an extension to the common law defence of ‘necessity’ for murder because the alternative – forcing him to stay alive – is worse. His lawyers also submitted that the government is in breach of his Article 8 right to ‘privacy, dignity and autonomy’, a right he cannot exercise independently because of severe disability.

The court rejected the “bold” submission, stating that there was no precedent anywhere in the world and such socially controversial changes were only for Parliament.

But the courts can’t keep ducking away from the problem, because Parliament is never going to address this issue. Why? Because, as Dawkins points out, once again, religion turns out to be the major culprit. Every attempt in the House of Lords “to do something about the right to seek professional (or even amateur) assistance in dying when you are too incapacitated to kill yourself” has crashed and burned, despite huge public support for reform in this area. Continue reading

Judicial blogging, right to die and Assange – The Human Rights Roundup

Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly bulletin 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

With the Olympics over now, there’s been a bit more activity in the legal blogosphere this week. Probably the biggest news is the guidance from the Senior Presiding Judge that may stifle judicial blogging altogether – the guidance requires that a blogging judge be unidentifiable as a judge . In other news, the Free Movement blog features a series of three posts this week discussing the July 2012 changes to the Immigration Rules; locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson loses his High Court case and yet another twist in the tale of Julian Assange emerges.

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A tinge of green in our Bill of Rights?

Amidst the root and branch opposition to socio-economic rights from some quarters, the idea that the Bill of Rights might contain an environmental right seems to have got lost in the smoke of this rather unedifying battle. The July 2012 Consultation on a Bill of Rights summarises the rival contentions well – see below.

I am ducking well away from the underlying question – should there be a Bill of Rights at all? – but support the proposition that, if there is to be such a Bill, it should contain some provision about the environment. Answers on a postcard to the Commission by 30 September, please, whether you agree or disagree with me, but in the interim, here is my penn’orth.

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