Gagging, discrimination and asylum benefits – the Human Rights Roundup
19 September 2011
Welcome back to the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
First, if you know an individual, campaign group or NGO which deserves to have its local or national human rights work recognised, nominations for The Liberty Human Rights Award close on 30th September 2011, so there’s still time to get nominating!
by Graeme Hall
In the news
Gagging the press
In an uncompromising piece in the Guardian, Geoffrey Robertson QC attacks the attempt of the Metropolitan Police to use the Official Secrets Act 1989 (OSA) to force the Guardian to disclose its source(s) which revealed the hacking of Milly Dowlers’ phone. Robertson not only describes Scotland Yard’s recourse to the OSA “blunderbuss” as misguided given that there is no evidence of the Guardian “inciting” this information from the police, but he also urges Parliament to revisit the OSA and insert a public interest defence to protect press freedom.
The Law and Lawyers blog assists greatly with understanding the background to this story. Click here for Obiter J’s history to the OSA and here for the potential legal wranglings involved. It is clear from Obiter J and Robertson’s pieces that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of expression, will be crucial in any legal proceedings, should it come to that. In the meantime, Robertson’s insistence that the Attorney General must stop this prosecution may well bear fruit as it is reported that not only is pressure increasing on Dominic Grieve but also that the deputy prime minister is sympathetic to the Guardian’s cause.
Finally, see Adam Wagner’s post on this blog from this morning – Official secrets and the powerful disinfectant
Equality and discrimination
The concept of equality, and the role it plays in the UK’s constitution, was recently described by Colm O’Cinneide on the UK Constitutional Law Group blog as “patchy or uncertain [being] usually the result of legislative intervention or the jurisprudence of the European courts” with domestic “common law standards remaining relatively underdeveloped.” Nonetheless, despite its (domestic) shortfalls, equality and anti-discrimination continue to take centre stage in current affairs.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report Hidden in plain sight: Inquiry into disability related harassment has been published. Adam Wagner has produced a summary of the report’s findings here. The report makes seven recommendations including better data, training and support. It also concludes that disability related harassment is “wide spread… largely unseen [and] its seriousness rarely acknowledged”, leaving individuals feeling disempowered, marginalised and excluded.
Equality also raises its head in a case discussed by Tom Hennessey of Halsbury’s Law Exchange. Waterstone’s faces legal challenges after mandating that its workers speak English during work hours. Hennessey notes that discrimination and employment guidelines from one of EHRC’s ancestors, the Commission for Racial Equality, will come into play, and that this case may contain thornier issues than it would seem at first blush.
At the margins
As keen supporters of factually correct reporting, it’s heartening to see the UK Immigration Law Blog outlining the benefits which those seeking asylum are entitled to. The reality of what asylum seekers are expected to live on is sobering, and the misreporting of such entitlements can cause resentment and ill-feeling. So, as the post suggests, complain when you encounter such shoddy journalism.
Liberty has written a blog hailing the Human Rights Act as the foundation for the arrests of those involved in the slavery of vulnerable people at a Travellers’ site in Bedfordshire. It is unnerving that specific laws did not exist to prevent people being held in forced servitude until 2010.
The Eutopia Law blog has produced a roundup, Seven Days in Europe, summarising the European financial crisis, changes to music royalties and drunk elks, amongst others. The Week That Was roundup reminds us of two important Bills enacted this week; one regarding fixed term parliaments, the other concerning the election of Police Commissioners and the requirement to gain the DPP’s permission to secure an arrest warrant against those suspected of war crimes (see Ministry of Justice press release).
The Law and Lawyers’ Legal Roundup covers a plethora of topical legal areas whilst Liberty continues its Human Rights Act bite-size blog, this week focusing on Article 3: No Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
Finally, see Law Think’s regular human rights news roundup, posted this morning.
In the courts:
- BN, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2367 (Admin) (16 September 2011): Sec of State irrational in ignoring fresh evidence in Malawi asylum claim.
- ASHENDON AND JONES v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 35730/07  ECHR 1323 (13 September 2011): European Court: Acquitted defendants’ fair trial rights not breached by judges’ failure to award them costs against CPS.
Case-law commentaries from across the blogosphere:
- Viva la Revolución? new Cuba guideline case, United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog. Case commentary on important asylum case: Fernandez (Dissidents and defectors) Cuba CG  UKUT 00343 (IAC).
- Grand Chamber Judgment on Trade Union Freedom of Expression, Strasbourg Observers. A guest post on the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in Palomo Sànchez v. Spain.
…and don’t forget our recent posts:
- Is the Official Secrets Act about to be used to gag journalism? – Obiter J September 18, 2011 1 Crown Office Row
- Proposed South African secrecy law may end up in the Constitutional Court September 16, 2011 Rosalind English
- Some information on local sex offence teachers must be disclosed, rules tribunal September 16, 2011 1 Crown Office Row
- Climate change science in the dock – US-style September 15, 2011 David Hart QC
- War crimes arrest warrant law changes September 15, 2011 Adam Wagner
- Analysis – Camden Council must disclose list of empty properties to squatting campaigner September 15, 2011 Matthew Flinn
- Courts still slow to interfere in spending cuts decisions September 15, 2011 Alasdair Henderson
- Opening up the family courts – Lucy Series September 14, 2011 1 Crown Office Row