Things to put in your Brighton Conference rucksack
18 April 2012
As the last hurrah of its Chairmanship of the Council of Europe, beginning today the United Kingdom is hosting the High Level Conference on the Future of the European Court of Human Rights in Brighton. As delegates settle into their Eurostar seats on the way over, here are a few useful tips:
1. If you have forgotten sun cream, don’t worry! The weather forecast is terrible.
2. All of the important documents are on the Conference website, including the Conference Programme and the declarations from the last two such conferences: Izmir (2011) and Interlaken (2010). There is also a CoE press release. In case you need to refresh yourself on the CoE itself, the BBC has this useful profile.
3. The most important document is the draft Declaration which you are being asked to approve. The document has been the subject of frantic negotiations and you will no doubt receive an up to date version. In the meantime, here is a slightly out-of-date version which even has useful track changes to show what has changed since the UK’s first draft. The somewhat ugly buzz-word for the Conference will be subsidiarity.
4. If you want to know what the Draft Declaration is all about, see the UK Human Rights Blog’s recent posts:
- Who should have the final word on human rights? – Dr Ed Bates,
- Law, politics, and the draft Brighton Declaration – Dr Mark Elliott,
- Reforming or redefining the European Court of Human Rights? – Noreen O’Meara, and
- Draft declaration on British ECHR reform plans leaked – Antoine Buyse.
- An appeasement approach in the European Court of Human Rights? – Professor Helen Fenwick
5. Non Governmental Organisations involved in human rights have been very cautious about the proposals, which some suspect are attempting to water down the role of the court – see their 13 April Joint Statement and this 15 April response from the official Council of Europe NGOs.
6. On that note, Angela Patrick, the Human Rights Policy Director at JUSTICE (a UK-based NGO which signed up to the Joint Statement) sounds the alarm in The Guardian about a suspect Policy Exchange / YouGov pole suggesting 75% of Britons think the Human Rights Act is a “charter for criminals”. I agree; a single leading question in a survey (the rest of the survey has, conveniently, not been published) has little or no analytical value, and brings to mind this wonderful scene from Yes Minister. The Guardian has also been collecting responses from people asked for a broader picture of the Court.
7. For a more balanced and interesting perspective on UK views on human rights, this new report from Murray Hunt, Parliaments and Human Rights: Redressing the democratic deficit, provides a useful and balanced analysis of the state of human rights in the UK, and in particular the democratic legitimacy of the present system.
8. If you are going to be tweeting about proceedings (although you should probably turn the iPhone off for negotiations…), the hashtag is #brightonconference.
9. Finally, you probably won’t need to take a packed lunch, but with only 30 minutes to grab some food on Thursday before a very interesting session, National Human Rights Institutions seminar on “Court reform, subsidiarity and domestic implementation- National Human Rights Institutions perspectives”, you might want to pack an emergency sandwich.
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Any government that wants to be rid of the human rights act or water it down is a very dangerous government
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