Conservatives ready to pull Britain from European rights convention

3rd October 2014, Comments 0 comments

Britain's governing Conservatives are prepared to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said Friday.

If they win the 2015 general election, Grayling said they would make the European Court of Human Rights no more than an "advisory body" for the UK.

And if the ECHR did not accept the supremacy of Britain's courts and parliament, a Conservative government would reluctantly be prepared to pull out altogether, he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced Wednesday that the Conservatives would bring in a British Bill of Rights and scrap the existing 1998 Human Rights Act, which incorporates the convention into British domestic law.

His centre-right party pledged this at the 2010 elections but, lacking a majority, entered coalition with the europhile Liberal Democrats and the plan was watered down.

Fleshing out Cameron's announcement, Grayling said the original principles in the convention, which came into force in 1953 and established the court, were "still those that should underpin a modern nation".

However, they have been "drowned out" by judges' decisions that have changed the nature of the convention and extended its remit into areas "that no-one ever intended", he claimed.

"This is not what we signed up to," Grayling wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.

The British Bill of Rights will "protect what we signed up to 60 years ago. But it will put a stop to the things that have gone wrong since then.

"We will end the situation where the European Court of Human Rights tells our courts what to do. They will no longer be obliged to take its decisions into account.

"Effectively it will make the ECHR no more than an advisory body for the UK. It can make recommendations to us, but we will not be bound to listen to those recommendations.

"If they won't agree that our courts and parliament will always have the final say, then we will use out powers under the original treaty to walk away altogether."

Grayling said the moves would ensure prisoners could not vote, murderers could still get whole-life jail sentences, and human rights laws could no longer be used to stop Britain evicting illegal immigrants or deporting foreigners deemed a security threat.

Britain's Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable called it a "retrograde step... to score cheap, populist points", while the Labour opposition said it would be a "disaster".

David Mepham, UK director at Human Rights Watch, said: "To propose that UK courts and parliament can simply ignore or override rulings of the ECHR they disagree with is a gift to abusive governments in Europe and beyond.

"If these plans go ahead, they will gravely damage the UK's credibility when raising human rights concerns with other countries."

© 2014 AFP

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