Operation Cotton, War Crime and the Right to be Forgotten – the Human Rights Roundup

22 May 2014 by

Right to be forgotten HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular lightening rod of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney.

In recent human rights news, the ECJ finds against Internet giant Google, strengthening the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. In other news, the UK awaits to see if it will be prosecuted before the ICC in relation to allegations of war crimes in Iraq, while the Court of Appeal confronts the issue of legal aid cuts in serious fraud cases as the Operation Cotton scandal continues.

In the News

Google and the Right to be Forgotten

In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the search engine Google must amend Internet search results in order to respect the privacy of individuals. The decision of the Court, in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González,

was given after a Spanish citizen complained that the inclusion of an auction notice for his home, which had once been threatened with repossession, on an internet search violated his right to privacy. Essentially, it was suggested that there is a ‘right to be forgotten’ – language borrowed from a 2012 report on the matter by the EU.

Lorna Woods, writing for the Inforrm blog, gives an excellent summary of the ECJ’s decision and its interpretation of the EU Data Protection Directive here. On behalf of the Justice Gap blog, Paul Bernal, has considered the pros and cons of the decision – which he suggests strongly favours the rights of individuals over both businesses and freedom of expression – and looks at the possible implications of the judgment on the current EU process of data protection reform.

Rosalind English’s post is here

UK “War Crimes”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has reopened preliminary examinations into the allegations that UK troops abused detainees in Iraq. The investigation follows a complaint to the ICC prosecutor lodged by Public Interest Lawyers and a the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights which claims to document evidence of abuse between 2003 and 2008.

The UK government, however, have suggested that ICC involvement is inappropriate and unnecessary in light of the fact that it is already investigating the claims. Writing for the Guardian, Joshua Rozenberg has suggested that the outcome of the ICC’s examinations will depend on the extent to which it is satisfied that the UK’s own investigations are sufficient.

Operation Cotton Spillover 

The last roundup summarised the Operation Cotton affair, in which a Crown Court judge halted a high profile fraud trial after the defendants found themselves without representation due to recent legal aid reforms. The incident generated particular media attention because the lawyer advocating that the trial was unfair was none other than the Alexander Cameron QC – brother of the Prime Minister.

His Honour Judge Leonard’s decision has now been overturned by the Court of Appeal. The judgment is here and a statement by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division here.

In Other News

  • David Miranda, partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, has been given permission to appeal against a decision of the High Court which found that his detention at Heathrow airport, connected to the Edward Snowden affair, was lawful. The Guardian reports here.
  • A man in Cambridge has been visited by two police officers, after tweeting about the UK Independence Party (UKIP), despite having committed no crime. Tamsin Allen, writing for the Inforrm blog, has highlighted the concerns that this incident raises in terms of free speech. 

In the Courts

Delay in reviewing the detention of someone convicted of arson, post-tariff in an indeterminate sentence, was not excessive or unlawful. Judicial review dismissed.

2+ years of immigration detention was lawful, rules High Court.

Lack of access to state-funded abortion in England for woman ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland was lawful under statute and no human rights (Art 14+8) breach.

Case Summaries

This year, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Cheshire West case – requiring that the living arrangements of those without capacity by local authorities. Jon Holbrook, writing for the New Law Journal, critiques the decision of the Court here. He suggests that the Justices asked themselves the wrong question, came to the wrong answer, and adopted the wrong approach in this case. In doing so, he argues that human rights are having a distorting effect on social policy in the UK – allowing judges to make decisions that should be taken by Parliament.

In this case, a foreign national had been given notice of his deportation following his conviction for a sexual offence against a child. The BBC sought to set aside directions by the Court of Session to protect the anonymity of the man, as he challenged a decision to refuse him permission to appeal by way of judicial review. The Supreme Court upheld the man’s anonymity. Writing for 11KBW’s Panopticon blog, Christopher Knight has outlined the Supreme Court’s decision, explaining its implications for the principle of open justice.


To add to this list, email Adam Wagner.  Please only send events which i) have their own webpage which can be linked to, and ii) are relevant to the topics covered by this blog.

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1 comment;

  1. Tim says:

    I don’t know if this has been covered in the HRB, but there has also been a development in the Ballerina case. If it happened as it has been reported to have happened, this is my recommendation for good commentary:


    I especially endorse the following:


    Bill Scott, director of policy for Inclusion Scotland, was also “outraged” by the court’s decision.

    He said: “It seems that the judges have decided that the state’s ‘right’ to make austerity cuts takes precedence over any individual human rights disabled people might have.

    “The ECHR have been moving in this direction over recent years but the heartlessness and obvious bias of this decision takes the biscuit.”

    He added: “Faced with the ECHR’s decision in this case, plus the court of appeal’s decision in the recent bedroom tax cases, many disabled people may be coming to the conclusion that the European Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are a waste of paper if they cannot protect ill and disabled people from having their dignity and homes stolen or even being starved to death.”


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