Comment // Constitution

What Has The European Convention On Human Rights Ever Done For Us?

On 25 April 2016, the Guardian published a “satirical” short video starring Patrick Stewart inspired by the classic Monty Python sketch, and designed to highlight Theresa May’s plan for a British Bill of Rights. The clear message is that Britain should remain bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and Theresa May should be stopped in her tracks. Yet while this latter point cannot be doubted, the question remains, “what has the ECHR ever done for us?”

The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty drafted in 1950 by the pre-EU Council of Europe. It came into force in 1953. While the Guardian’s timing of this video is significant, the ECHR has no direct bearing on the EU Referendum debate: in or out, Britain will still be bound by the ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights.

This will come as a relief to many in Britain, especially activists and campaign groups who have a tendency to run off to a supra-national body (the European Court of Human Rights) any time the British government steps on their toes. I find this ironic, since it is the likes of supra-national policy, globalist corporate interests and erosion of national sovereignty that they are often fighting.

The ECHR has, according to Wikipedia, “played an important role in the development and awareness of Human Rights in Europe.”

The key word here is “human”. “Human” Rights deny the existence of God. For many, this is completely appropriate. Yet to deny the principle of a higher power in our political and legal organisation is unbelievably dangerous. I find it no surprise that the main groups pushing “Human Rights” and constitutional reform in Britain are “secular” humanists, “rationalists” and other atheists.

For the record, I am not a religious person. For me, the question at the heart of all this is: where do our rights come from?

Are they given to us by Theresa May?


David Cameron, then?

If not from them, then where? If we assume the non-existence of God, then they must come from some human being. Someone is set above all others to decide what is right and what is wrong. Perhaps it isn’t one person; maybe a corporation or other corporate interests?

How many times have we heard the lie that Britain has no constitution? Sometimes, this statement is tempered by the suggestion that Britain has no “written” constitution.

It is true that Britain’s constitution has evolved over thousands of years. It is not codified in a single document and so it can be difficult to get to grips with all the nuances. However at its heart is the principle of unlimited, unalienable, God-given rights.

How many times have we been told in recent years that our laws are old and dusty and have to be “modernised”? They have to be modernised because for our current God denying constitutional reformers, God-given rights are inconvenient.

Our main constitutional documents, for example Magna Carta or the Declaration of Right/Bill of Rights, are restatements of even older principles. They are reassertions of principles and rights; supported by hundreds of years of case law. The British constitution is based on the idea that the longer a principle is in force, the more validity it has because successive generations of people—not one person or vested interest—agreed that it is right.

Possibly the single most important example of this case law is “The Case of Seizure of Papers, being an Action of Trespass by JOHN ENTICK, clerk, against NATHAN CARRINGTON and three other Messengers in Ordinary to the King, Court of Common-Pleas, Michaelmus Term: George III A. D. 1765”.

This case established the default constitutional position regarding rights in Britain: that “the state may do nothing but that which is expressly authorised by law, while the individual may do anything but that which is forbidden by law.”

With this principle formally established for a couple of hundred years, what is the purpose of “human rights”?

Back to Patrick Stewart:

but … apart from the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, freedom from slavery and freedom from torture and degrading treatment, and protecting victims of domestic violence … but apart from these, what has the European Convention on Human Rights ever done for us?

This is the clever twist of this so-called “satire”; the “nudge”, if you like.

The implication, the message which is being delivered, is that without the ECHR, we would not have the right to a fair trial (as just one example). Yet this, and all the others, are established rights which have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years before the ECHR ever did. At best, like Magna Carta, the ECHR could be viewed as a restatement of existing rights, but that is all.

Theresa May is playing a similar clever psychological game. By stating that she is going to remove Britain from the ECHR, she is creating public demand for “human” rights over God-given rights. She is creating public consent for selected “humans” to decide what our rights are, to give them and take them away on a whim, to limit them.

Again, I ask, are you happy that Theresa May or David Cameron decide what your rights are?

Let me remind you of Entick v. Carrington: “the state may do nothing but that which is expressly authorised by law, while the individual may do anything but that which is forbidden by law.”

Theresa May, and for that matter everyone driving the European constitutional model, would turn this principle on its head. Theresa May is pushing for the activities of the state to be unlimited, and the activities of the “human” to be limited. This is the basis of “human” rights.

Patrick Stewart ends by saying, “Now, I’m not against human rights; of course not …”

Well, I am, and I would argue that you should be too.