Sunday, June 22, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Yesterday’s quarrel, conducted in the open through the media, between Shami Chakrabarti, Director of the UK based human rights group Liberty, and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham over the decision by Tory MP David Davies to stand down and call an election over his parliamentary seat in light of the government’s successful attempt to increase the number of days that terror suspects can be held before being charged to 42, brings to mind Harvard Professor David Kennedy’s excellent 2002 essay The International Human Rights Movement: Part of the Problem. Although the paper relates to international issues, there might be a few pointers relevant for the UK human rights movement and its choice of methods of advocacy. In light of popular opposition to the Human Rights Act in the UK and pledges by the Tories that they will consider scrapping it once in office, it could be questioned whether the UK human rights movement has itself to partly thank for this situation. For instance, high profile cases supported by groups like Liberty, such as the case where it was ruled that the UK government could not expel nine Afghani hijackers because they would face torture once back in their home country (a ruling, however, clearly in line with case law from the European Court of Human Rights), have hardly spurred popular support for the Human Rights Act. Similarly, appearance by Ms Chakrabarti at conferences for both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats combined with this week’s threats of a lawsuit against Mr Burnham could give support to people who argue that groups like Liberty are running publicity campaigns rather than fighting the civil liberty cause. On the other hand, it could be argued that the purpose of human rights advocacy is not to improve public support for human rights but instead to protect even the most unpopular individuals. Additionally, a closer look at Ms Chakrabarti’s and Liberty’s advocacy reveals a mixed history owing little to political allegiances and ideology. However, in light of increasing conflict between civil liberties and policies aimed at securing public safety, it ought to be evident that the cause of civil liberties and human rights deserves all the support it can get. Debate as to how to best achieve this is likely to increase and as part of this, the various human rights groups will face scrutiny - something which is to be very welcomed.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Professor Charles Wyplosz has a very interesting and succinct piece in yesterday’s Financial Times on the rejection of the Lisbon treaty by the Irish voters. Interestingly, Wyplosz argues, when discussing whether certain EU issues and questions are unsuited for national referendums due to complexity, that European voters are merely cynical as rejection of grand EU policies, be it the failed constitution or treaties, is the only way in which citizens of Europe get to have a say in the Union’s policy. This is a point regularly overlooked in the frantic discussions that often follow popular refusal to vote Yes to the various EU policies.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Early indications from Ireland point towards a rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish people. The BBC has the latest.
While it is likely that Ireland will face significant criticism in EU circles for turning down the Lisbon Treaty, and arguments in Brussels are likely to go along the lines of “after all we have done fore Ireland” and “with all the money they have received”, polls indicate that many voters have voted no simply because they claim that they did not understand the Treaty. In this light, it is evident that the Irish Yes campaign and its supporters from across Europe has failed in pointing out the benefits of the Treaty to the Irish voters.