UK urges changes to the European human rights convention

[JURIST] The UK has begun circulating a proposal for changes to the European Convention on Human Rights [text], which was leaked to the press on Tuesday. The proposal, entitled the Brighton Declaration [text, PDF], began circulating to member states last week. It is expected to be voted on in April when members states meet to discuss the future of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. The proposal calls for a number of amendments [BBC report] to the convention with the most notable allowing the court to issue advisory opinions. Additionally, the would allow nations greater leeway in applying the court's decisions on their citizens. This proposed amendment is directly in line with a statement [JURIST report] by the UK's highest judge in October that found ECHR decisions are not binding. Due to the controversial nature of the amendments, unanimous approval from all 46 member states must be received before the proposal can go through. The government's actions were not unexpected, though, because members of the government have promised for years to use the rotation of the court's presidency as a platform for reform.

Earlier this month a UK think tank urged the country to withdraw [JURIST report] from the ECHR altogether in favor of a national high court. Tensions between the court and the country have been high for years due to the UK's lack of agreement with some of the court's rulings. In 2005 the court found that British prisoners should be given the right to vote [JURIST report]. The ECHR and the UK have also clashed over the issue of extradition of terror suspects. In February 2011 the UK government's independent reviewer of terror laws published a report [JURIST report] saying that rulings from the ECHR made it difficult to remove foreign terror suspects from Britain. The ECHR refused to grant the government's request that a terror suspect be required to show that it is more likely than not that he would be subject to ill-treatment. The ruling lowered the suspect's burden of proving that he would be faced with ill-treatment upon returning to his home country. In July 2008, the ECHR stayed the extradition of four terrorism suspects [JURIST report] from the UK to the US, holding that potential punishment could violate Convention's provisions on the prohibition of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment.

 

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