Europe rights court: UK whole-life sentences conform with international law

Europe rights court: UK whole-life sentences conform with international law

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment] Tuesday that the methodology used by British courts to determine whether to mitigate whole-life sentences does not violate Article 3 [text] of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bars inhuman and degrading treatment. Arthur Hutchinson was seeking a judgment on an unsuccessful appeal of his whole-life sentence for a triple-murder and rape committed in 1983. In 2008 the Court of Appeal [official website] ruled there was no reason to depart from the whole life tariff. Hutchinson’s most recent appeal [Telegraph report] under international human rights laws put the whole-life sentencing review profess of British courts under scrutiny. Commentators argue Tuesday’s ruling is a sign the ECHR will limit interference with whole-life sentences under the British justice system. The impact of Tuesday’s ruling may be more significant politically [BBC report] than legally, as the ruling affirms the position of the UK Conservative Party [official website] before the upcoming general election in the UK this May.

Tension between the UK judiciary and the ECHR has increased recently, as the UK has criticized [BBC report] the position of the ECHR, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights among the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. Last February a panel of five judges for the UK Court of Appeal ruled UK laws do allow for whole life prison sentences [JURIST report], despite a prior judgment from the ECHR that held whole-life sentences violate individual human rights, unless there is a mandatory system of parole review. In September the ECHR ruled the UK did not violate international law [JURIST report] in regards to the capture and detention of Iraqi national Tarek Hassan. However, in August the ECHR declared the UK’s ban on inmate voting infringes [JURIST report] on prisoners’ human rights. The UK has argued the ECHR is as a judicial body that cannot be challenged, and the UK has ruled since 2011 their domestic courts are not bound [JURIST report] by ECHR rulings.