Post on 27 June 2022

The United Kingdom wants to free itself from the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights

Boris Johnson made it a campaign promise during the 2019 general election: on Wednesday 22 June, his British justice minister, Dominic Raab, introduced a bill, the Bill of Rights, which is supposed to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act and give the British Supreme Court primacy in the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights over the European Court of Human Rights It also provides that the UK courts (Royal Courts and Courts of Appeal) will no longer have to apply expeditiously the interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights, which are decisions taken on an emergency basis, often to halt the extradition or deportation of asylum seekers or people facing prosecution.

The Bill of Rights, which has been in the pipeline for several months, gained momentum and became even more political after the Strasbourg court issued interim measures on 14 June blocking the sending to Rwanda – from the UK – of asylum seekers who had not had their flight tickets cancelled by the UK courts. The charter specially chartered by the Johnson government was grounded, triggering the fury of Conservative MPs and casting serious doubt on Downing Street’s ability to implement its migration policy.

Donwing Street drift

In anger, Tory MPs such as Jonathan Gullis even called for the UK’s outright withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty that came into force in 1953, of which Winston Churchill was one of the instigators and the country one of the first signatories… before backtracking: this convention is one of the legal bases of the 1998 Good Friday peace treaty that put an end to thirty years of civil war in Northern Ireland. The European Convention on Human Rights remains “compatible” and even Dominic Raab assured the House of Commons that the bill would be “integrated” into the Bill of Rights project, in the face of particularly critical opposition from Labour and the SNP Scottish Independence Party. “This project will strengthen the rights of victims,” the minister added.

This is not the opinion of a majority of legal experts and NGO representatives, who denounce a worrying drift by Downing Street. “This text will encourage populist governments in Eastern Europe” to take their liberties with the European Convention on Human Rights, lamented SNP MP Joanna Cherry. In the columns of the Guardian, Sacha Deshmukh, head of Amnesty International’s UK branch, points out that after the charter to Rwanda was blocked, “We heard the same kind of attacks on the European Court in Strasbourg that we would have heard from Viktor Orban or Vladimir Putin. The Strasbourg Court is ” an invaluable last resort” for many people, she adds, ” it is to it that, for example, the lawyers of the British soldiers enlisted by the Ukrainian army and sentenced to death in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk could turn.

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