Inquiry Impasse, Charter Confusion and Competition Time – The Human Rights Roundup

Guantanamo-roundupUpdated | Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular swirling snow flurry of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can  find previous roundups herePost by Sarina Kidd, edited and links compiled by Adam Wagner.

This week, there are criticisms over the delay of inquiries both into the mistreatment of terrorism suspects and the Iraq War. Meanwhile, discussion continues over the relevance of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for UK law, and a dying asylum seeker on hunger strike will not be released.

Request for help – religion and law

Courting Faith: Religion as an Extralegal Factor in Judicial Decision Making  Barristers sought to participate in PhD Research project exploring the relationship between religion and judicial decision making. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Amanda Springall-Rogers at A.Springall-Rogers@uea.ac.uk

In the News

Blocked Inquiries

Both the Gibson and Chilcot reports have been delayed for a combined total of more than three and a half years. The Gibson inquiry, which was scrapped before it reached any hearings, is due to release a preliminary report into the mistreatment of terrorism suspects. No reason has yet been given for the delay. The Guardian suggests that ‘the delay is thought to be the result of concerns about a public statement that will accompany the report when it is published’. Meanwhile, Sir John Chilcot and his panel are currently unable to disclose notable documents on the Iraq war. The Chilcot report wants to release 25 notes from Blair to Bush, more than 130 records of conversations between either Blair or Gordon Brown and Bush and information relating to 200 cabinet discussions. Understandably, pressure is now mounting for David Cameron to break the logjam on these reports.

Charter of Fundamental Rights Confusion

The confusion over the domestic status of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights continues. Rosalind English, of UKHRB, has already discussed the matter in detail, and the previous roundup also provides links on the debate.

Mr Justice Mostyn’s recent judgment in R(AB) v Home Secretary suggests that the Charter allows for a range of new rights to be put into UK law, which the British government does not want to include. This has led to a backlash, with Chris Grayling trying to determine whether the Charter does apply to UK law. Carl Gardner, of Head of Legal, reports that Mostyn J was to a large extent got it wrong, and that Grayling’s actual words (for the media reports did not report his statements entirely accurately) were largely correct.

In essence,  the Charter does apply in the UK but to a limited extent: only to situations involving EU law, and even in those circumstances not introducing any rights which weren’t available in EU law before. Gardner dissects the two’s arguments and explains the obstacles that the debate is facing. For example, the legal concepts are complex and difficult to fully grasp. This means that the media are not producing accurate and proficient reports on the matter. Furthermore, any discussion and policy involving the EU and human rights are often ideology driven, meaning, ‘we have to scrutinise carefully anything governments do, and anything an MP says, about the combination.’

Competition Time!

  • 1 Crown Office Row pupil Ross Beaton has won the top £4000 prize in the Bar Council Law Reform essay competition with his essay on assisted dying
  • Law students, trainee solicitors, pupil barristers and junior lawyers (current, prospective or inbetween stages) are invited to enter the Law Society’s annual Graham Turnbull essay competition. This year’s title is, ‘Applying human rights and humanitarian law, in what circumstances should forcible measures be permitted against a state that is subjecting its people to human rights abuses?’ The deadline for entries is 21 February 2014.

Hunger strike

The Guardian reports on a High Court ruling that an asylum seeker on hunger strike must stay in custody. The failed asylum seeker, Ifa Muaza from Nigeria, has been on an 85 day hunger strike. Last week, the Home Office issued ‘an end of life plan’ which the Guardian states is part of a more inflexible approach following the release of four asylum detainees on hunger strike in June.

Consultation on the future of the European Court of human Rights

See here for a podcast in which the Head of Court reform, David Milner, details plans for a public consultation on the future of the European Court of Human Rights. Milner wants individuals and organisations to offer their contributions to any aspect of the convention system. The deadline is Monday 27 January 2014, and will result in a report being presented to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

Consultation on deportation with assurances

Supplementary written evidence from David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has been published by the Home Affairs Committee. Anderson, the independent Terrorism Legislation Reviewer, explains how he has been asked to conduct a review on the UK’s policy of ‘deportation with assurances’ (see, for example, Abu Qatada, who was returned to Jordan in July after the court requirements had been satisfied). Anderson states that he welcomes any knowledge or experience of the DWA, and whilst the evidence will not be published, they will be acknowledged and a conference will be arranged where lawyers, NGOs and others can exchange their views.

Strasbourg Case Law

The European Courts blog continues its roundup of Strasbourg cases, including one on reputation damage and another determining that courts should stick to the rules.

Meanwhile, Hugh Tomlinson at Inforrm analyses two recent Strasbourg cases. In Print Zeitungsverlag GmBH v Austria (Judgment of 10 October 2013) the First Section of the Court of Human Rights held that a domestic judgment in favour of two local politicians did not constitute a breach of Article 10. It is notable because, for what seems to be the first time, the criteria for balancing Articles 8 and 10 in the context of privacy complaints was used in a defamation context. Tomlinson notes that ‘they are not, at first sight, very well adapted for use in this context’. Putitstin v Ukraine is also discussed. This case seems to open up the possibility that in appropriate circumstances, claims for ‘defamation of the dead’ may be brought under Article 8.

In the Courts

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