The Round Up: Prorogation, Kashmir, and Protests
2 September 2019
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
Last week, Boris Johnson decided to ask the Queen to prorogue (suspend) Parliament. The decision means that Parliament will be closed for 23 working days, reducing the amount of time MPs will have to pass legislation about Brexit.
Supporters of PM Johnson pointed out that Parliament has already been sitting for around two years. They have also suggested that proroguing Parliament is entirely proper because it is simply an exercise of a prerogative power. Finally, they argue that it will allow the government to hold a Queen’s Speech and outline its plans.
A number of figures spoke against the move:
- Tom Watson (Labour) stated proroguing Parliament was an “utterly scandalous affront to our democracy”.
- Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) has asked that MPs work together to stop Mr Johnson, or “today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy”.
- Dominic Grieve (Conservative) described it as “an outrageous act”.
- Anna Soubry (Independent Group for Change) tweet that it was “outrageous that Parliament will be shut down at a moment of crisis as we face crashing out of the EU with no deal & for which there is no mandate”.
Ruth Davidson, who had been the leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland, quit. She said her decision was driven by political reasons and personal ones (she recently had a baby). The government whip, Lord Young, also resigned.
Demonstrations took place over the weekend. A judicial review, led by Gina Miller and her legal team, is also being launched.
Following the summer recess, MPs will return to Parliament on the 8th October.
In Other News….
- Five men were jailed for sexually abusing children in Rotherham by Sheffield Crown Court. The court heard how vulnerable young girls were targeted, plied with drugs and alcohol, and raped. Slater J criticised the local authority’s response to the crimes. The judge said he was “quite satisfied” that the relevant authorities were aware of the situation but did little about it. The charges arose from Operation Stovewood, an investigation launched by the National Crime Agency into abuse taking place between 1997 and 2013. A total of 20 men have now been convicted as a result. More from the Telegraph here.
- The situation in Kashmir appears to have escalated. The Indian government recently deprived the region of its special status. It also imposed a lockdown in the area, resulting in communications being wiped out. About 3000 people have reportedly been detained. The Indian Supreme Court will hear 14 petitions against the government’s decision in the coming week. The BBC has reported that locals allege security forces have been beating and torturing them. The Indian Army deny the claims. The UN Commission on Human Rights has called for a Commission of Inquiry to be set up in order to investigate whether there have been human rights abuses in Kashmir. (More from the BBC here).
- Protesters in Hong Kong have defied a ban and continued demonstrating. Joshua Wong, the prominent pro-democracy activist, was arrested. He was charged with unlawfully organising a rally on 21 June, in which protesters blocked police headquarters for around 15 hours. Beijing has recently moved more soldiers into Hong Kong. (More from the BBC here).
In the Courts:
The Outer Court of the Court of Session refused an application for an interim interdict (similar to an injunction) in order to prevent PM Johnson from shutting down Parliament.
The petitioners argued that the advice given by Ministers to the Queen was unlawful and unconstitutional, because:
- It was motivated by a desire to restrict Parliament’s ability to hold the Government to account. The Prime Minister could not deny Parliament sufficient time to consider the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;
- It frustrated the will of Parliament as expressed in a number of statutes, including the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019, and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.
Lord Doherty, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, considered his decision overnight. Giving judgment, he refused to grant an interim interdict. This was on the following grounds:
- Parties seeking interim orders must show that there is a cogent need for the orders to be made. In this case, it had not been demonstrated that there was such a need for an interim suspension or interdict to be granted.
- A substantive hearing was due to take place (which has now been moved to Tuesday 3rd September). This would allow the matter to be heard prior to 9th September, the first possible date on which Parliament could be prorogued. At that hearing, the court will hear full argument on whether the petition itself is well founded.
- Even if the petitioners were correct that they had a prima facie case, the balance of convenience did not require an interim order to be granted.
On the UKHRB
- Rosalind English has written about the right to protest, and how it should be weighed up against other rights.
- Jonathan Metzer covered the launch of a Judicial Review against Boris Johnson’s decision to ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament.
- Rose Burke considered what a ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean for the rights of people subject to future extradition between the UK and the EU.
- Finally, Rosalind English explored the vexed issue of airspace in R (on the application of) Lasham Gliding Society Ltd, v. the Civil Aviation Authority and TAG Farnborough Airport Limited.
- LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth: Constitutional Challenges to Colonial Laws: Middle Temple, 5th September, with HRLA. More information here.
- Automated Facial Recognition and Human Rights: The Royal Society, 10th September, with The Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project. More here.
- A Conversation about Climate Change & Human Rights: Clifford Chance LLP, 18th September, with UN Global Compact Network UK. Details here.
- Have women achieved professional equality? 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act: Barnard’s Inn Hall, 3rd October, with Gresham College. More information here.
- Organ transplants and human rights abuses in China: Museum of London, 10th October, with Gresham College. More information here.
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