UK Human Rights Blog - 1 Crown Office Row
Right to die, asylum and extradition – 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.
The news this week has been dominated by issues relating to Article 8 and the right to die. First, we had Tony Nicklinson, a man suffering from locked-in syndrome, and then there was the case of E, a woman suffering from anorexia who was being looked after in a community hospital under a palliative care regime whose purpose was to allow her to die. In other news, just when you (or rather, I) thought the fat lady had sung for Julian Assange, there was another twist in the tale as he requested asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy.
by Wessen Jazrawi
Justice Wide Open
Following on from Adam Wagner’s post last week on the democratic deficit in the courts comes a post by Judith Townend, a PhD researcher based at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism and editor of ‘Justice Wide Open’ a new working publication – the publication’s chapters are all online here. Its first section considers the tradition and context of open justice while the second explores the flow of legal knowledge and the third deals with the role of the media and journalists. She encourages those who are interested to contact the CLJJ with their own thoughts and experiences, which will feed into ongoing research and work in this area and forthcoming recommendations to the Ministry of Justice.
The right to die
The sad case of Ecame before the Court of Protection this week, a woman of 32 who had been sexually abused from the ages of 4-11, who had developed an eating disorder shortly afterwards and who had then become an alcoholic. In considering whether to make an order to force-feed her, Mr Justice Peter Jackson had to decide (1) whether she had capacity to make decisions about her treatment, (2) if not, did she have mental capacity when she made an advance decision in October 2011, and was that decision valid and applicable, and (3), if she lacked capacity and had not made a valid advance decision, was it in her best interests to receive life-sustaining treatment in the form of forcible feeding with all necessary associated measures? He found that, whilst the competing factors were almost exactly in equilibrium, the balance tipped slowly but unmistakably in the direction of life-preserving treatment.
The judgment is well worth reading. For an analysis of the case, see Richard Mumford’s post on the UKHRB.
Charon QC has considered both this case and that of Tony Nicklinson on his blog, which is recommended. In relation to E, he notes that Mr Justice Peter Jackson specified in his judgment that had the authorities not made a commitment as regards the provision of resources for E’s care, he would not have reached the conclusion that he had. He invites comment from practitioners in this field who have expertise in this complex issue. 1 Crown Office Row’s Philip Havers QC is representing the other claimant in the case, ‘Martin’.
In an eloquent article on the BBC, Tony Nicklinson explains why he wants to change the current law regarding euthanasia, stating that it cannot be acceptable that he should be denied the right to take his own life just because he is physically handicapped. He describes the conditions he lives under and argues that we must be able to devise adequate rules governing assisted dying. He has asked the High Court to rule that if, and when, he decides he wants to die, a doctor will be immune from prosecution if they help him. Rosalind English posted on this back in March on the UKHRB.
On the same topic, she has written a post on the recent ruling of the British Columbia Supreme Court that certain provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code prohibiting physician-assisted suicide violate important rights of equality, life and liberty under the Charter. She sets out the Court’s reasoning and notes that this deeply considered and humane judgment is an excellent source of comparative, ethical, medical and social material on the question of end of life decisions.
Asylum and Assange
Julian Assange this week confounded observers by requesting asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy, as reported on by the Guardian. Ecuador appears to be considering the application and, until a decision is made, he will remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorean government.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to pursue negotiations with the European Union last week with a view to finalising the legal instruments setting out the way in which the EU would accede to the ECHR, as discussed by David Hart QC in this post on the UKHRB. He notes how important it is to get the fine details of accession ironed out, and queries whether one check on an over-weening EU institution might be a European Court of Human Rights.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.