The Human Rights Act (HRA) is an eyesore for David Cameron and his neocon clique. It is a thorn in the side of their desires to strip civil liberties under the apparent pretext of terrorism, “foreign criminals” who presumably are not “human”, and other excuses such as “Parliamentary sovereignty”. Article 8 – the right to private family life is often invoked as a troublesome Article by the neocons. When a government looks to reduce civil liberties of any people, it should be a cause for concern for all of us.
While the plans to repeal the HRA have been temporarily been shelved, other pieces of legislation which are designed to violate the rights of the people are steamrolling ahead. These pieces of legislation cannot be seen mutually exclusively. A holistic analysis presents a grim reality. I have previously argued that the doing away with Human Rights Act allows for an even more opaque government. It also paves the way for other draconian legislation to be brought in without the need to comply with the HRA. As I stated in a previous blog,
“The point to note is that any subsequent legislation must be compatible with HRA. With the Tory proposals regarding the HRA itself, the requirement of compatibility and giving due regard to the European Court’s judicial interpretation will be removed, which naturally means the courts would take into account the intention of Parliament. The intention of Parliament, if the proposals go through, would be to limit the application of human rights to the “most serious cases”, with inalienable rights being subject to “tests”.”
The neocons in government are hell-bent on creating a closed, securitised, on-edge society which values their aims over and above individual rights. To this end, varying aspects of our lives are slowly being restricted and exposed to the government.
The uber-invasive Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) was rushed through Parliament using emergency powers (such invasive legislation always is) last year. It sanctions retention of masses of communication data. Despite the European Court of Justice ruling which declared a European Union Directive requiring the retention of data by telecoms firms as “invalid” and disproportionate, taking into account security concerns, the legislation maintains the complete opposite. This is now being challenged… using the Human Rights Act.
Two MPs – the Conservative David Davis and Labour’s Tom Watson represented by human rights organisation Liberty – are challenging the emergency surveillance legislation. The Guardian reports that the objections mounted by Liberty are based on the argument that the legislation is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the right to respect for private and family life: the very same Article 8 which is often attacked by Cameron and co and the very same HRA which is in the neocon, (Michael) Gove-ian firing line.
Despite this, further legislation is being brought in to further erode civil liberties. As Simon Jenkins notes in his recent insightful piece, where the US is pedalling back its unfettered data harvesting, “Britain’s government moves relentlessly in the opposite direction. It wants to revive the “snooper’s charter” bill, which… would give police and secret services more surveillance powers and, David Cameron hopes, ban server encryption that could impede surveillance.”
The Counter-Extremism Bill, which has at its heart the definition of “extremism” – a uniform application of which would implicate the government itself – will enshrine measures such as restricting the rights of “extremist” speakers, banning “extremist” organisations, shutting down Mosques, and banning closed gatherings, setting itself for a collision course with religious freedom, free speech, and freedom of assembly. In other words, it is a further way by which the rights found in the HRA legislation will be drastically attenuated.
Due to the entire discourse around “extremism” being firmly framed in the paradigm of security or tenuous “radicalisation” theories, and due to the aim of these measures targeting the Muslim minority, the civil liberties concerns have only now, after several years, come to attention.
The fact is however, that the neocons are fully prepared to the push the eventual Bill through Parliament and in doing so will undermine the very rights found in the HRA.
Accountability – CAGE Action
The advocacy group CAGE has instantiated a judicial review of the neoconservative Charity Commission, headed by the anti-Muslim, Zionist, Guantanamo Bay-supporting William Shawcross. CAGE it must be noted has been indirectly attacked by government bodies well before it took centre-stage in 2015 and revealed the alleged harassment meted out by the security services, which may have partially contributed to Mohammed Emwazi’s radicalisation. Peter Oborne wrote in July 2014,
“…mysterious sequence of apparently unrelated events has brought Cage to its knees. Its bank accounts have been closed down, while the Charity Commission has opened cases into two of its most important donors. One Cage director and one former board member are facing investigation for financial irregularities. Requests to open accounts have been refused by around ten banks the group has since approached…”
As I noted in my analysis, these hindrances which led Oborne to write that they “reek of a police state”, have come from government bodies headed by neoconservatives (William Shawcross and George Osborne). The action thus taken by CAGE has a dark history overshadowed by neoconservativism. The Charities which were being harassed in 2014, were placed under “intense regulatory pressure” following the release of the Emwazi emails in 2015. Other charities, according to CAGE have also been forced to disassociate from CAGE.
Pertinently, the actions of the government however, have had the effect of silencing dissent and preventing association and assembly – rights enshrined in the HRA. Indeed, Zoe Nicola, associate lawyer at HMA Solicitors, which represents CAGE, said,
“The statement published by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust clearly states that its decision to withdraw current and future funding to Cage was due solely to intense and concerted regulatory pressure… Such interference on the part of the Charity Commission was in excess of its powers. These actions curtailed our client’s freedoms of expression and association. This raises concerns that our client is being penalised for engaging in a debate and expressing views which may have been unpopular with the Government.”
Central to holding the executive to account is thus the HRA, fulfilling the express function of civil liberties: protection against state excesses and abuse of power.
The suggestion to can the Human Rights Act proved so unpopular with the public that the Conservatives feared they would not be able to push through their faux, rights-curtailing “British Bill of Rights”. As a result, they had to temporarily shelve their proposals (presumably because they are awaiting another pretext which they can then use to instil fear in the people and hate for their own liberty).
I cannot emphasise this more: the “closed society” measures – be they unfettered, poorly scrutinised surveillance powers, silencing dissent through civil legislation and the security paradigm, or government bodies acting in a rogue manner – must be viewed in the context of the Human Rights Act. These pieces of draconian legislation and actions undermine the HRA and actualise the way in which the British Bill of Rights will be used by neocons such as Michael Gove, William Shawcross, and George Osborne, if it becomes reality. In short, these proposals are an attack on the HRA and civil liberties of all Britons through the back door and therefore should be treated with the same severity as repealing the HRA.
The philosophy of neocons is such that, eschewing an open society premised upon individual liberty, it prefers a Stasi-esque, fascist, authoritarian, “closed society” not entirely dissimilar to what succeeded the Weimar Republic of Germany. There is a much deeper relevance to the words of Professor François Crépeau, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants who recently criticised Tory threats to pull out of the ECHR:
“We have to remember the 1930s and how the rights of the Jews were restricted in Germany and then the rights of the whole German people…I mean, countries that go down the path of reducing the rights of one category of people usually don’t stop there.”