UK Human Rights Law the United Nations Term Paper

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UK Human Rights Law

The United Nations General Assembly proclaims the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" for teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms (Human Rights Library 2001) by member states and peoples under their jurisdiction. This Declaration recognizes, promotes and protects the inherent freedom, equality, dignity and rights of all human beings to interact with one another in the spirit of brotherhood; recognizes these rights and freedoms regardless of race, color, language, sex, religion, opinion, origin or other status or political status of their government; the individual right to life, liberty and security of person; prohibits slavery and the slave trade and torture or any other degrading treatment or punishment; equality before the law and equal protection by the law without any discrimination; right to effective remedy and full, public and fair hearing by a competent national tribunals; the individual's right to a presumption of innocence; the right and freedom of movement, residence and travel; rights to enjoy asylum from persecution, to a nationality, a family and its protection by society and the State; the right to own property alone or communally; freedom of thought, conscience and religion, of freedom of opinion and expression, of peaceful assembly and association, participation in government of his country directly or through representation; the right to equal access to public service; the right to suffrage; the right to social security; right to work and to protection against unemployment, equal pay for equal work, a just and favorable compensation, to form or join trade unions; the right to rest and leisure, adequate standard of living, the same social protection for all children, whether born in or out of wedlock; the right to free education at least in the elementary or fundamental stage, and to an education that promotes the full development of the individual and the strengthening of these rights and freedoms; the right to free participation in cultural life in the community, and to promote one's moral and material interests (Human Rights Library). The UK is a member of the United Nations.

On the other hand, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union declares these rights under the categories of dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights, and justice. The Charter recognizes the fundamental rights to human dignity, to life and integrity as a person and, as a consequence, prohibits any form or torture or degrading punishment, slavery and forced labor. It recognizes, promotes and protects the individual right to liberty and security, respect for privacy and family life; protection of personal data, the right to marry and form a family; freedom of thought, conscience and religion, expression and information, assembly and association, to practice the arts and sciences; to education, a choice of work or business; the right to property, to asylum and protection from removal, expulsion or extradition. Under the category of equality, the Charter promotes and protects the right to non-discrimination, to cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, equality between the sexes; the rights of the child and the elderly; and the integration of the handicapped or disabled. In the area of solidarity and labor, the Charter guarantees and protects the worker's right to information and consultation, collective bargaining and action, access to placement service; protection from unjust dismissal; the right to a fair and just compensation and work conditions; protection against child labor; protection for young people at work; promotion and protection of the family and professional life; right to social security, social assistance, health care, access to service of general economic interest; and environmental and consumer protection. It insures, promotes and protects citizens' rights to vote and be voted to the European Parliament or municipal positions; to a good administration; to access to documents; to file petitions with the European Parliament; freedom of movement and residence; and diplomatic or consular protection (Official Journal of the European Communities 2000). From 1966 to 2000, an individual who sought remedy for an injury had to bring his case up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The Human Rights Act of 2000, however, changed that and the face of the UK by allowing individuals to file their complaints and seek redress right in British courts (BBC News 2000). It enabled the citizens to fight for their basic human rights against the state or its agencies in court. Many welcomed it as one of the most significant changes in British law since the Magna Carta and noted that transfused the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. Other observers, however, expressed concern that the passage of the Act could and would clog the courts with all sorts of frivolous legal actions, such as convicts and convicted rapists challenging the ban of conjugal rights and the removal of the vote (BBC News). Opponents of the Act observed that courts in Scotland, where the Act took immediate effect, was riddled with 600 additional cases or a 98% rise in court suits.

The Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine defended and justified the Act in that it was a remedy if basic human rights were really trampled on and that it would promote a new culture of human rights that would seep through all levels of public life (BBC News 2000). He also said that he could not see how the new law would enrich the legal profession and that this argument was raised with the passing of previous landmark legislations, such as sexual discrimination. Home Secretary Jack Straw also defended the Act, which merely brings complaints of human rights violations home to British courts and that it would protect the weak from the power of the state. He dismissed apprehensions that the Act would mean a loss of Parliamentary sovereignty and, instead, assured that the law of the land will continue in its entirety until Parliament changes it to be compatible with Convention rights (BBC News). But gay and lesbian advocates did not expect too much from the Act to approve same-sex marriage but believed that it would bring significant solutions to discrimination issues.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International kept a keen eye on UK developments in the human rights arena. The organization maintained a suspicious pose against "emergency legislations" in that country since the 1970s and how these laws violated international human laws and facilitated human right abuses (2003), which included torture, cruel and inhuman treatment and unfair trials. The UK government reasoned that the al-Qaida network threat to the UK, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City amounted to a public emergency that required emergency anti-terrorist measures, such as the ATCSA, which was passed by the UK Parliament and enacted on December 14 of the same year (Amnesty International).

Under the said Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act or ATCSA of 2001, non-UK nationals could be certified as "suspected international terrorists" by the Secretary of State and immediately and indefinitely detained on the basis of secret evidence alone (Amnesty International 2003). The Secretary of State was also empowered to present this secret evidence in closed hearings where the detainees would be excluded.

The Home Secretary defended the drastic measure by repeating that a public emergency persisted in the UK and that, when criminal prosecution was not an option, a person suspected to be a terrorist could be detained indefinitely as long as a public emergency existed.

Neither removal nor deportation was probable for the detainee who, in most cases, was state-less or unacceptable to other countries to accept precisely because the UK government tagged him or her as a "suspected international terrorist (Amnesty International 2003). The UK government could not also deport or remove this detainee because of its obligation not to return him or her to the country where the detainee could be at risk of serious human rights abuses. Article 3 of the European Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment forbids such a return, especially if the detainee was likely to be prosecuted and sentenced to death. Because of its inconsistent posture with the right to liberty and security of persons, which the UN declaration guarantees, the UK derogated from, or temporarily suspended, its obligation to observe the UN provisions. In fact, the UK is the only country in the world to do so as a result or in reaction to the New York bombings in September 2001 (Amnesty International). It specifically derogated from, or breached, Article 5 (1) of the Charter and Article 9 (14) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Supporting the International Antara Community or SIAC last year heard but dismissed appeals from 10 such detained suspects who were considered risks to national security on the basis of the Home Secretary's position that they had links with the al-Qaida global network of terrorists (Amnesty International 2003).

What invited furor and objection was the nature of that secret evidence presented by the Home Secretary and which…[continue]

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