07:39 GMT25 September 2020
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    Fresh from forming a new Conservative majority government, Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed the party's steadfast intention to scrap the Human Rights Act.

    The Human Rights Act was introduced by the Labour Party in 1998. Articles from the act include: the right to liberty, the right to life, right to privacy, right to a family life, freedom of expression, freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to a fair trial.

    In a political party pledge ahead of the election, the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced proposals to reform Britain's human rights law and replace it with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The intention is to limit the power that the European Court of Human Rights has over courts in Britain.

    What that means is that courts in Britain would no longer have to take into account the rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which in turn gives parliament the power to veto its decisions, making the ECHR no longer able to overrule judgements made in British courts.

    In his role as justice secretary in the Conservative government's new cabinet, Michael Gove, who has no formal legal training, will lead the controversial process of scrapping the Human Rights Act.

    Meanwhile, human rights groups are warning that the plans pose the "greatest threat to freedom in Britain" since the Second World War. And according to the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), the plan to repeal the Human Rights Act in Northern Ireland would "constitute a flagrant breach of the Good Friday Agreement."

    The CAJ has written to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers MP, asking for urgent clarifications of the new government's intentions relating to the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the CAJ, repealing the Act in this way in relation to Northern Ireland would be a flagrant breach of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, voted on by referendum and incorporated into an international treaty with the Irish government, deposited at the UN. The Good Friday Agreement guarantees that the British government will ensure ECHR 'incorporation into Northern Ireland law'.

    "The Secretary of State should urgently clarify the government's position as to whether it intends to breach the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in this way," Brian Gormally, Director of the CAJ said.

    "Such a step would make the UK an international outlaw and significantly roll back the peace settlement in Northern Ireland."

    The scrapping of the Human Rights Act could be seen as a political point scoring pledge by the Tories ahead of the general election, encompassing the wider rhetoric for Britain's withdrawal from the European Convention. However, the CAJ is quick to point out that:

    "The European Convention of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights which oversee compliance with it are nothing to do with the European Union. Rather [they] are provided by the Council of Europe, an international body of member states, established after the Second World War to ensure minimum standards of democracy and human rights, which subsequently expanded after the fall of the Berlin Wall to include central and eastern European states."


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