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Former UK prisoner to sue government for denial of voting rights

A former prisoner began proceedings against the British government last week after Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would not comply with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official websites] requiring the government to remove its blanket prohibition on prisoner voting rights. The Grand Chamber of the ECHR ruled [judgment] in 2005 by a 12–5 vote that the prisoner voting prohibition violates Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [text, PDF]. Former prisoner John Hirst was also awarded costs and legal fees in the amount of €23,200. After much delay the government was ultimately given until November 22 of this year to respond formally to the court's ruling, but last week Cameron declared that he would not change the law [Guardian report]. In addition to filing a lawsuit for damages Hirst's lawyers are reportedly also writing to the ECHR to bring its attention to Cameron's comments. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling [personal website] has stated that while it is possible for the UK Parliament [official website] to take no action, observing judgments of the ECHR is an international legal obligation arising by treaty and the government's reputation would suffer greatly in the case of such a breach.

The ECHR was established under the Convention in 1959 to hear complaints that any Council of Europe [official website] member state has violated human rights as defined in the Convention. Earlier this month the recently freed member of the controversial Russian feminist rock collective Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] filed a complaint with the ECHR claiming violations of her right to freedom of speech and that she was illegally detained and prosecuted as one of three band members
sentenced to two years in prison [JURIST reports] for hooliganism in connection with a "guerrilla performance" of a protest song in February at the altar of downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Also in October the court ruled that a gay man was detained in violation of Articles 3 and 14 [JURIST report; JURIST comment] of the Convention when he was harassed and mistreated for his sexual orientation while held in a Turkish prison. In August the court held a hearing on the appeal [JURIST report] of convicted former Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive].

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