It is easy to forget that our domestic debate over the European Convention on Human Rights might be having an international impact. But the UK is only one of 47 states which is party to the Convention, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg protects over 800 million people.
This morning, we brought you exclusive interviews with survivors of the Beslan massacre who are rightly worried that if the UK leaves the Convention, or even threatens to leave as the Conservatives did recently, that will affect their fight for justice. In short, Vladimir Putin would have a ready excuse for ignoring any conclusions reached by the Court.
Well, here is another example of the effect which political trash-talking about the ECHR can have. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing war crimes charges in the Hague relating to ethnic violence which erupted after the 2007 elections leaving 1,200 dead and 600,000 displaced.
He has recently stepped down in order to face the charges. He made a speech to the Kenyan Parliament (PDF) on 6 October strongly asserting Kenya’s “sovereignty”, and in doing so he said this:
The push to defend sovereignty is not unique to Kenya or Africa. Very recently, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom committed to reasserting the sovereign primacy of his parliament over the decision of the European Human Rights Court. He has even threatened to quit that court.
It is easy to overstate the ‘domino’ effect of the withdraw of support for international human rights in the UK. However, the UK is still respected internationally for its approach to the rule of law and human rights. And, the international legal system relies in the most part on the willing cooperation of states, even if that means some loss of sovereignty. As former Tory Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC has said, his party’s plan “undermines entirely the principles that underpin international law.” Don’t be surprised if Kenyatta’s is the first of many appeals to the UK’s assertion of “sovereignty” to defend unlawful acts.
Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS