Finding Right Balance on Human Rights

Article excerpt


Human rights appear to have got a lot of bad press recently. The words are bandied about whenever a personal right becomes an issue. Therein lies the problem. We have begun to confuse individual rights with the rights of humanity.

It is particularly the case since the Human Rights Act 1998. This is not surprising as the ambitious aims of the act were spelt out by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg at the second reading of the bill at the House of Lords in 1997: "The bill will bring human rights home. People will be able to argue for their rights and claim remedies under the convention in any court or tribunal in the United Kingdom. Our court will develop human rights throughout the society. A culture and awareness of human rights will develop." You might ask yourself what happened before 1998? Well, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was signed in Rome in 1950. Steps were not taken to align English law with this convention. The Human Rights Act introduced into English law a new code of practice, in many areas of law where it claimed to recognise individual rights against the claims of the state made in the name of the need to preserve public order, the common good or community standards. …