Human Rights and Europe's Law

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 21, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Human Rights and Europe's Law


IT IS no surprise to learn that the Government's own advice confirms the disastrous international consequences of any two-fingered salute to the European Court of Human Rights. There is a whole spectrum of ways in which the UK might decide to comply with the Court's prisoner voting judgments, but you can't remain in any family of nations if you are not prepared to share its values. Westminster can't lecture Russia and Turkey, let alone Egypt or Bahrain about the rule of law if our politicians think that they are above the law themselves. The last time our government flouted international law we entered the Iraq war. As for MPs ignoring domestic law: remember the expenses scandal? Criminal convictions and prison sentences do not mean an automatic withdrawal of all fundamental rights -- that notion ended with the abolition of the death penalty. Rather, liberty is withdrawn as proportionate punishment, along with a necessary limitation of certain rights such aspects of privacy, association and family life. The blanket ban on prisoner voting dates back to the 1800s. It ignores any real possibility of rehabilitation and does nothing to make us safer. It is no more sensible than a blanket ban on prisoners reading books would be. Surely society is better served by allowing prisoners, at least those soon to be returning to our communities, the chance to become responsible citizens by engaging in elections? Shami Chakrabarti, director, Liberty GREAT efforts have been made to reach a compromise with the ECHR over prisoners' rights, but the court's ruling in January in Scoppola v Italy moves the goalposts again.

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