Human wrongs

When I think of Theresa May I think many things, but one thing that always springs to mind is that cat.

At the Tory Party Conference a while back, she said that a foreigner avoided deportation because he had a pet cat. “I’m not making it up,” she scoffed.

She was actually making it up. Or perhaps she was misinformed. Either way, she wasted no time trashing human rights as the one thing standing between the government and an effective immigration policy.

She keeps doing this. Despite missing the ridiculous immigration target year on year and failing on her own metric for her job, she is always able to refocus the collective mind on a tabloid bogeyman. Usually immigrants but also human rights mechanisms.

She did it again this week in her speech for the EU Remain campaign, unhelpfully bringing in the European Court of Human Rights, which she claimed “did nothing for our prosperity.”I mean, never mind that this is nothing to do with our membership of the EU and the fact that she has AGAIN chosen to either be disingenuous or is really, really misinformed (more on that later)…

Sure, Theresa. Human rights have done nothing for us. Except facilitate that very “prosperity” by ensuring that citizens are free to “go forth and prosper”, by and large. (there are people on the margins of course and prosperity isn’t felt by all). But is this one of the better places to live? Yes.

So Theresa is for staying in the EU but withdrawing from the ECHR, which legal blogger David Allen Green pointed out would also affect the Good Friday agreement. The ramifications of such an action are so huge as to make it an unworkable solution. She didn’t care, she got the headlines she wanted, as with the cat story. It’s all internal politics of course. She wants to be leader and needs to keep the anti-human rights right wingers on board.

It plays well in the galleries. But another story this week, Hillsborough, shows that human rights law is so important and relevant. As the TUC wrote in one of its analyses on Brexit, the international human rights regime raises the floor of rights. It isn’t the ceiling. It makes the State go further. It actually gives us more space, as citizens. Especially those who at one time or another have faced opprobrium: ethnic or sexual minorities. Hell, even majorities: women.

The point is: Hillsborough shows us that human rights still need to be defended. The families’ heartbreaking decades long struggle for justice was made possible because of the Human Rights Act, that Theresa and her friends are so desperate to repeal.

“The jury in the new Hillsborough inquest returned a verdict of “unlawful killing” in respect of the 96 people who died as result of the events on April 15 1989. The verdict was a triumph for the families of the dead who have campaigned for 27 years for justice. The scope of the new inquest, however, was only possible because of the Human Rights Act 1998, which gives the articles of the ECHR effect in domestic law.” – David Allen Green

If there is a time to show the public why human rights matter, it’s now.


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