Thursday 12 September 2013

How well do you know your "Human Rights"?

The European Convention on Human Rights has played an important part in the development of the law in England. While that is obviously true since the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998 (full text available here), it had an important influence since it first came into effect. An article on UK Law online - written in 1997 - states:

"The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a treaty signed in 1950 by the then members of the Council of Europe. In this way, it predates the European Communities and Union and arises from a quite different organisation. The two are linked, however, in that adherence to the Convention is now effectively a condition of membership of the EU. Additionally, the European Court of Justice refers to the Convention which influences its decisions, even though the EU is not a member of the Convention. Note that the European Court of Human Rights (described below) is not the same as the European Court of Justice. The judges are different and one sits in Strasbourg, the other on Luxembourg.
The UK was a founding member of the Convention and was very influential in its design. It was amongst the first states to ratify the treaty. It has allowed individuals to make complaints to the European Commission on Human Rights since 1966. The influence of the Convention has been growing in the UK in the past decade or so. (1980s-1990s) This is partly because the European Court of Human Rights has become a more energetic body...."

It is worth looking at the ECHR and identifying the specific rights arising from each article. The Key Section is 'Section 1 - Rights and Freedoms' which includes Articles 2-18. If you are revising for an exam in Constitutional & Administrative Law; Human Rights Law, or the Open University's W201 "The Individual and the State" - it might be worth drawing up a table (Spreadsheets like Excel are so useful for this purpose) setting out for each Article - the rights (brief phrase - then description); any limitations; key cases (distinguish those from the European Court of Human Rights; and cases decided in the English courts). Textbooks or course manuals are a great help here - they highlight the key points.

Could you give a brief talk on the subject matter of each right? (You might be able to persuade a fellow student; or a partner or even your cat - to listen to it. Failing that rehearse the 'talk' as you go for a walk - exercise AIDS revision).

It's also important to do a similar table and talk for key provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Finally, be prepared to discuss the value (or otherwise) of the Human Rights Act & the ECHR. Prepare a briefing paper for yourself.

You might find the following briefing papers from the House of Commons Library useful
Report of the Commission on a Bill of Rights
UK Cases at the European Court of Human Rights since 1975
EU membership and ECHR
Deportation of individuals who may face a risk of torture