I will keep this short. David Davies MP (not David Davis MP) has posted on his official blog that the Paris attacks show that the Human Rights Act should be repealed. His reasoning is spurious. He does not understand the law. He misrepresents the Human Rights Act. I will explain why below. But first, here is his post in full:
A few years ago while working a Special Constable in London, I was involved in the arrest of a man who had declared himself to be a member of the Taliban.
He backed up his statement with various documents and photographs of himself in a desert holding weapons with other armed militants.
We radioed for advice and after a while were told to let him go. Apparently he was an asylum seeker whose claim for asylum in Britain was based on his membership of an extremist terrorist group who have taken the lives of hundreds of British soldiers. He was set free to continue his journey across London to meet his lawyers who were no doubt being paid for out of public money.
This incident has always worried me. Under current laws, including the Human Rights Act, anyone can come to the UK and make a claim for asylum.
There must be huge numbers of people in Britain who have been members of extremist Islamic organisations. Some are actually using this as the basis for an asylum claim.
The tragic terrorist attacks in Paris should be a wake up call.We should state that anyone suspected of links with any militant Islamist organisations should be prevented from entry under any circumstance into Britain.
Those who enter illegally should be held in custody until deported to their home country regardless of any penalty they may face there.
Here is the main problem for Mr Davies’ argument. He is wrong to say that “Under current laws, including the Human Rights Act, anyone can come to the UK and make a claim for asylum.” The right to claim asylum is not contained in the Human Rights Act. It is in the the 1951 Refugee Convention. Here is a site which explains what that is. The United Kingdom signed up to it on 28 July 1951.
It requires that signatory states grant asylum to those who demonstrate “a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, and are unable or unwilling to seek protection from the authorities in their own country”.
And! The Convention does not apply to those who has committed a “crime against peace” a “war crime” or a “crime against humanity” (Article 1F). So the example Mr Davies uses is itself spurious. That rule is enforced in our law – see for example this post.
As far as I am aware, no MP is (yet) arguing we should withdraw from the Refugee Convention.
So withdrawing from the Human Rights Act would not address the problem which Mr Davies identifies.
Yes, asylum seekers often also attempt to use the Human Rights Act in order to obtain leave to remain in the UK, for example if they face the risk of ill-treatment in their home country. But let me repeat – the right to claim asylum is contained elsewhere and will remain despite repeal of the Human Rights Act.
There are other points which can be made. Such as the fact that along with protecting people coming to the UK from dangerous countries, the Human Rights Act does a huge amount more – including protecting free expression of the press under Article 10, the rights of religious believers under Article 9, the right to life under Article 2, the right not to be tortured under Article 3. But that is perhaps for another day, when someone makes a serious argument that human rights are responsible for the Paris attacks.
MPs have a responsibility to be accurate when the promote the repeal of an important law. Mr Davies’ post is irresponsible, particularly in the charged climate following the Paris attacks. He should remove or amend it, with a clear message that he got it wrong.
Update – see also Dr Mark Elliott’s excellent post on this