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UK parliament panel says Human Rights Act 'used as scapegoat'

[JURIST] The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights [official website] has said that Britain's Human Rights Act [text; backgrounder; JURIST news archive] has "been used as a convenient scapegoat for unrelated administrative failings within government," in a new report [PDF text] released Tuesday. Several members of the British government, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, have lately called for possible revisions to the Act [JURIST report], Britain's codification of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text], after growing tension between the British government and judiciary [JURIST report] over human rights issues in the war on terror. The controversy was ignited by a court decision allowing nine Afghani airplane hijackers to remain in the UK [JURIST report] for fear they would be tortured in their home country.

In June, Conservative Party leader David Cameron proposed a US-style bill of rights [JURIST report] to replace the Human Rights Act to balance the protection of civil rights and defense of the country against terrorism and other threats. Cameron initially called for revisions to the Act [JURIST report], or for the Act to be scrapped altogether, after the Afghan hijackers won their appeal against deportation. In May, UK Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer [official profile] told the BBC [recorded audio] that the government might introduce legislation [JURIST report] that would prevent the Act from interfering with public safety matters. While the law was not amended, Falconer said the government wants to dispel "myths" surrounding the Act [JURIST report] so that public officials do not tilt the balance too far in favor of the rights of criminals against the rights of victims. The Human Rights Committee agreed, saying, "We are convinced that more needs to be done to explain that the act can be a force for good for the people of this country, as well as debunking negative myths about it." The Independent has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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