Posts Tagged ‘Human rights’

I’m sure St Basil’s Cathedral is beautiful and that borsch grows on you, but, I don’t want to live in Russia. Nor do I want to live in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran or any other country that doesn’t recognise basic human rights.

I’m not asking for much: I want to live in a country where I can express myself freely without the risk of arrest, where I can practice my religion (or lack thereof), where I can live freely without unlawful interference of my property or person by the State, where I won’t be locked up without due process.

Theresa May said yesterday that the next Conservative Manifesto would promise to repeal the Human Rights Act.

As an aside, the Human Rights Act doesn’t actually give anybody any new rights. What it simply does is incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights directly into English law. I.e, you can enforce one of your ECHR rights in an English Court of any level, rather than having to go to every English Court and then go to Strasbourg. If you didn’t know, you have had ECHR rights since the 1950s, they were thought to be essential by great men and women: Churchill. Being a signatory to the Convention is a necessary condition before a nation is able to ascend to EU membership.

The ECHR is simple enough, google it, simple things like the right to life, the right to a fair trial. Things that you want, that you expect.

Let’s be honest, Theresa May isn’t saying that she doesn’t want you to have those rights. She’s keen to express herself and live freely without the risk of arbitrary arrest.

No, the truth is, that a poisonous section of our society do not like the universal aspect of human rights.

And that varies in degree:

Why should prisoners have rights? They committed crimes, they’ve been taken out of society.

Why should asylum seekers have rights? They aren’t in their home country, they’re guests in somebody elses.

Why should the unemployed have rights? They aren’t contributing economically to society, why should they be protected by it.

Uncomfortable yet? My skin is crawling.

What about disabled people with genetic conditions. Should they have the unfettered right to reproduce?

Or, what about the mentally ill? Or children?

Now I’m feeling a little sick.

The haves and have nots

Repeal the Human Rights Act, in reality we’re all have nots. Not being able to directly enforce one’s Convention rights in domestic Courts is not a positive thing. Nor, in reality to any of us benefit from the legal situation of suddenly extracting those rights from the system, especially when 10 years of common law decisions are based on the Convention having direct effect. Legal uncertainty is not a good thing, especially when it concerns the rights of the individual.

The citizens and the slaves

Those with a historic inclination would be probably say that the Magna Carta is the first real human rights document, and hoorah, it’s British. But, there is a simpler, much earlier document:

When Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon he freed all of the city’s slaves. He declared that all races were equal and that one was free to choose one’s own religion. That was in 539 BC.

My view is simple. There is a minimum standard that everyone deserves. If you decide that certain people don’t deserve that minimum standard then they are little more than slaves.

If you argue that not everyone deserves human rights, then be sure never to visit a country where human rights aren’t universal, as you may find yourself in that minority without protection.

FTD

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Today’s media darling weighs 8000 tonnes and comes in only one colour – battle grey. She comes with a series of add on packs including a lynx helicopter, anti-air missiles comes as standard.

HMS Dauntless is a reflection of Britain’s aspiration to retain a modern and effective military force.

What’s your point?

I have more than a passing interest in the Navy, I grew up in a naval town and both my parents were/are naval folk. To me, the question as to whether we should maintain an effective military with all the constituent parts thereof is simple. Yes, we should. It’s worth the money. (If you want to debate that, then we can at some other time.)

What’s in a name

The purpose of the military is wide and depends on our society. At the time of HMS Victory at Trafalgar it was about projecting British power and defeating the old enemy the French. Victory’s last battle was in the 19th century.

In the 21st century part of the role of HMS Dauntless, is, and should be to protect. Not only protect British interests and that of our allies, but to protect others too.

The British military have shown that they are dauntless in protecting civilians who are subject to unlawful violence. ‘Operation Deliberate Force’ in Bosnia is one such example.

Sabres to be rattled

On the anniversary of 30 years since the Falklands War there are many sabres being rattled both here and in Argentina. The deployment of HMS Dauntless to the Falklands should not be dismissed as simple right wing sabre rattling. It is a signal that the British will protect the right of self-determination that is enjoyed by Falklands islanders.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

‘If you wish for peace, prepare for war’ is the motto of the Royal Navy. It doesn’t encompass the diversity of the role the Royal Navy (nor any of our military) now has. If we are prepared to invest so much of our GDP in our armed forces, they should not simply as a deterrent to some of our more aggressive neighbours. They should be an example of our steely determination to protect universal rights in every ocean.

One who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects

That is how Plato described a tyrant. When a tyrant refuses to obey international law we ought to be dauntless in our resolve to protect his people. Team America World Police is an amazing satire on how some Americans see themselves. I don’t argue that Britain should become the world’s policeman. But, I do think that wealthy countries with the ability to project power abroad should be prepared to protect simple people who do not have recourse to a Court like we do.

One of the things which annoys me is how the right wing press have forgotten about the sacrifice our military personnel have made previously for human rights. Human rights are now considered dirty words. Part of the reason we fought in the Second World War was to protect human rights. Part of the reason we fought in the First World War was to protect the rights of our neighbours.

The reason why the European Convention of Human Rights existed before and independent to the European Union was because in 1950 we (that being the British!) that we could never return to a Europe where basic rights were marched upon in goose step.

Dauntless in our protection of rights

I hope that the British will continue to be brave about protecting the rights of others. I wish that our involvement in Iraq had been to protect the Kurdish population from massacre. I am proud that we stood up with the French and prevented to some degree Gadaffi from turning military power on his own people.

I expect my Government to continue to protect me. But, I still expect them to protect others. Let HMS Dauntless be an eponymous commitment to the protection of human rights in all of the oceans.

The HMS Dauntless of 1808 supported scientific discovery. Let’s demonstrate how such an advanced ship in this era, be a platform for helping other people around the world.

The HMS Dauntless of 1850 was part of the experimental squadron. Let’s demonstrate how such an advanced ship in this era, can be used to break drugs trafficking and people trafficking.

And like the HMS Dauntless of 1919, part of a special squadron, let’s show the world that our foreign policy is committed to protecting fundamental human rights.

Human rights which former seamen proudly fought for and some still do.

FTD

So says Imad Ghalioun a Syrian MP who defected today.

The image of Syria he describes is terrifying. He told Channel 4 that ‘the law is dead.’

Elections rigged. Defecting soldiers murdered. Snipers keep some sort of oppressive order.

The path of repression is a dead-end

“I say again to President Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. Stop killing your people,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said over the weekend. “The path of repression is a dead end.”

Qatar says Arab League Troops ought to be deployed.

I couldn’t agree more.

If necessary the UN must take steps to force Assad to stop.

Hawk in sheep’s clothing

Most people assume because of my profession and my strong support of human rights and civil liberties that I do not believe in the use of force.

They’re wrong.

My view is that the United Kingdom in the 21st century maintains armed forces for three reasons:

1) To protect British subjects and their interests.

2) To aid in disaster rescue and humanitarian efforts.

3) To protect others who are subject to unlawful force

No 1

It is in our interest to defend the civilian population of a potential trading partner.

No 2

“Ghost town full of horror.”  The description Ghalioun gives of his home town.

No 3

If the UN is the dinner lady, and the US is the big kid, we’re the clever little kid standing behind them.

And we’re a lucky little country, because we can protest, we can argue, we can tweet and blog. If we don’t like the Government we can say so. Government employed snipers don’t put us in their cross hairs because we speak out.

We’re protected by the law

You have the right to life. The people of Syria must do too.

If a Government starts to unlawfully end the lives of its people, then by necessity that Government ought to be stopped.

International law only has some sort of punch if there’s an international policeman to do the handcuffing. It’s an unpopular view but I believe it. Until Assad’s Government are stopped then the international criminal law is dead too.

And once Assad is in handcuffs and is on trial, I believe that he deserves the best defence possible – because he has rights too.

Universal human rights are meaningless until those of us who enjoy those rights make sure that our neighbours do too.

FTD