The election of Donald Trump as the next US President has shaken our faith in democracy and is a serious blow to the cause of human rights in the US and around the world. President-elect Trump’s campaign was a repudiation of the political and social progress made under his predecessor. It was an explicit threat to those who are vulnerable – whether because of their religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. Trump’s election, an ‘American tragedy’, comes at the end of a year in which the values that are said to underpin civic society in the US and Europe have come under significant threat.
When President-elect Trump’s inauguration takes place early next year he will seek to set the tone in the Western hemisphere, and across the globe, for the rest of this decade. It is clear, even before we address specific policies or world-views, that we will miss the grace and poise of President Obama. These are qualities that President-elect Trump revels to reject. We are unlikely to hear an affirmation of rights such as that President Obama made with the alliterative triad of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.
What then, for human rights, in the time of Trump? Continue reading
Oversight of the Intelligence Services is a matter of enormous public importance, as counter-terrorism powers are enhanced to combat a pernicious and persistent threat.
A recent Report by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller, assisted by Oliver Sanders of these Chambers, dispels some misconceptions about contact between the intelligence services and Michael Adebolajo, one of 2 men convicted of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby. It also shines a light on how HMG applies its policy on the treatment of detainees held overseas – in Adebolajo’s case, by a Kenyan partner counter-terrorism unit in 2010. Not all of the Report’s findings make comfortable reading for the Intelligence Services.
HMG’s policy was, and remains, never to assist, condone, encourage, solicit or participate in any form of mistreatment of detainees. The 2010 Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, is intended to guide UK personnel who work with overseas agencies where, by definition, they are unlikely to be in total control of the situation in which detainees are held. Continue reading
R (o.t.a. Johnson) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 56
19 October 2016 – read judgment
In Jamaica in 1985, a baby was born to British father and a Jamaican mother. The child’s parents never married, and at the age of four he moved to the UK with his father. Under the law in force at the time, as an ‘illegitimate’ child, he did not automatically acquire British citizenship. If his mother had been the British parent, if his parents had ever married each other, or if an application had been made while he was a child, he would have become a British citizen. But he did not.
Two decades pass and the Secretary of State attempts to deport that individual, Mr Johnson, following a string of very serious offences. He appeals on the ground that deportation would be unlawful discrimination. If only his parents had been married, he would be a citizen and not be liable for removal.
The Supreme Court agreed. It held that there was no justification for someone in his position being liable to deportation simply through being born out of wedlock, which was an accident of birth over which a child has no control.
The Court also declared that a “good character” requirement for acquiring citizenship which applied only to illegitimate children was unlawfully discriminatory and incompatible with the Convention.
This judgment represents a further step towards equal rights for children born out of wedlock.
On the occasion of the publication of the book Parliaments and the European Court of Human Rights by Professors Alice Donald and Philip Leach, Judge Robert Spano of the European Court of Human Rights comments on the general themes presented in the book and its contribution to the ongoing debate on the European Convention on Human Rights and the Principle of Subsidiarity.
A culture of human rights in national parliaments
The effective implementation of human rights requires a culture of human rights at all levels of government as well as in society in general. Therefore, it is a possibly transformative development in European human rights law that the role of national parliaments in the realisation of human rights protection within the Convention system has increasingly become a focus-point in recent years, both at the level of policy within the Council of Europe, but as well, and importantly, at the level of adjudication of actual human rights cases in the Strasbourg Court.
This new book provides an excellent overview of this important development, by highlighting the arguments in favour of a more parliamentary-focussed human rights jurisprudence, while at the same time identifying the potential risks to be addressed in future cases.
As a serving judge of the Strasbourg Court, I would like to make a couple of remarks on the core of the normative argument in this regard, as developed by the authors, on the relationship between human rights, democratic governance and legitimate authority.
The first is a doctrinal point, while the second is more practical.
Understanding Standing: Post 3 of 3 of Article 263(4) TFEU
This is a final post in a series of three on standing in EU law. It will focus on whether the present position under Art 263(4) TFEU satisfies the principle of effective judicial protection.
Part I) Effective judicial remedies.
Effective judicial protection is of a long pedigree. We can trace an embryonic form of this right in the Magna Carta of 1215 which provides, in Article 29, that “no freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his (…) liberties (…) save by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny or delay right or justice” (See also Arts 11 to 13). It also emerged fairly early on in the jurisprudence of the European Union in the mid-1980s, with the CJEU starting to toy with the idea that the effectiveness of EU law could impose certain obligations at the domestic level in order to ensure that effectiveness, Case C-14/83 Von Colson and more famously Case C-410/92 Johnson. The principle can now can be found enshrined in Art 47 of the Charter, as follows:
Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Everyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by the law of the Union are violated has the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal in compliance with the conditions laid down in this Article. (…)
This Charter has equal status to the other two Treaties constituting the EU, the TEU and TFEU (see TEU, Art 6(1)) Thus, as has been stressed on many an occasion, the very applicability of EU law entails the applicability of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter. In other words, effective judicial protection is a fundamental postulate of EU law – where there is EU law there must be effective judicial protection. Continue reading
I have so many rights I am thinking of flogging some off on eBay. Though I have the right not to do so.
Stop telling me whatever it is you may be telling me. I have a right to tell you not to tell me.
I have the right and you have the right. What we have rights to may be different but let’s pool our rights and make one big right.
My right to have rights is being threatened by people who claim they have the right to other rights. Other people are bastards.
My rights are constantly threatened by people claiming to have rights. They have no right to such rights.
I have the right to stamp my foot. If I am not granted the right to stamp my foot I will stamp my foot. That is my right / my foot.
Everyone has the right to have rights. They are right to have rights. It is right to have rights. It is right to be everyone.
*Article in Guardian to this effect. ‘Stop telling X what to do’ is a favourite Guardian meme to be fully explored another time.
Poem posted with permission of the author. George Szirtes is a British poet and translator from the Hungarian language into English
Work recently began on a wall in Calais, funded by the UK government, to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from crossing the Channel to Britain. Nearly simultaneously, the government announced that it would increase immigration tribunal fees by over 500%, erecting a different type of barrier—to access to justice. It was claimed that doing so would bring in an estimated £34 million in income annually and preserve the functioning of the tribunals.
The decision to increase fees was made despite the fact that responses to a public consultation conducted by the government overwhelmingly disagreed with the proposals. The suggestion to increase fees in the First-tier Tribunal (the first port of call when a person wants to challenge an immigration or asylum decision by the state) was opposed by 142 of 147 respondents. Introducing fees in the Upper Tribunal (where appeals against decisions in the First-tier Tribunal are heard) was opposed by 106 of 116 respondents, and the introduction of fees for applications for permission to appeal in both Tribunals was opposed by 111 of 119 respondents. In partial concession to critics of the proposal, the government has said it will introduce fee waiver and exemption schemes in certain cases. However, these plans are as yet unspecified and are likely to increase the bureaucratic burden on migrants. Continue reading