Sunday 19 February 2012
I’ve been trying to enlighten American users on Blog Catalogue on the exact meaning of ‘human rights’ when it comes to their practical application here in Europe. It’s difficult swimming against the tide - something I’m rather used to - when people are still dewy-eyed over the principle. How can anyone be opposed to human rights? It’s a jolly good thing; surely we can all agree?
Well, if you are American, imagine this: imagine a court in, say, Mexico City or La Paz laying down the law for the people of the United States. Imagine judges from afar undermining the authority of Congress, the authority of the President, the authority of the Supreme Court; imagine a foreign tribunal undermining the Constitution itself. Can you make this leap of imagination? No, it’s doubtless next to impossible. But this is how we now live in England.
I wrote recently about the notorious example of Abu Qatada (Independence for England, 23 January), a hate preacher and inspirer of terrorists, himself an alleged terrorist, wanted for his part in a bombing campaign in his native Jordan. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg blocked his extradition on the supposition (I really have to stress supposition) that he would not get a ‘fair trial’, this in the face of all assurances to the contrary. He is now at large while the government appeals the ruling.
Ahead of Qatada’s release, Prime Minister David Cameron made his feelings known before the Council of Europe, the feelings, I have little doubt, of the vast majority of the British people;
…the problem today is that you can end up with someone who has no right to live in your country, who you are convinced – and have good reason to be convinced – means to do your country harm. And yet there are circumstances in which you cannot try them, you cannot detain them and you cannot deport them.
Big and small they come, as we are slowly strangled by an alien noose. The small includes the case of Milnd Sande, a male nurse who served twelve months in jail for sexually assaulting a pregnant patient. As an Indian national he should have been deported on release, the normal practice hitherto with all foreign criminals. But he can’t be deported because the Court, under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, ruled that he had a ‘right to a family life.’ The irony is that his wife and children are not even here. They are somewhere in India on an ‘extended holiday.’
This is not a unique example. Approximately some four hundred foreign criminals a year are using this loophole to stay in the country, including a Nigerian who raped a thirteen-year-old girl, a man who has no wife, children or long-term partner in this country. This comes on top of thousands of others, illegal immigrants who have used the same provision to be allowed to stay, all in defiance of government policy on controlling mass migration.
There is another ruling by the ECHR I have in mind, one with potentially explosive political consequences. Last year it decreed that denying the franchise to convicted prisoners was a breach of their human rights. But these jail birds can only vote if Parliament changes British law. This was a step too far, a surrender too cowardly. By a huge margin the House of Commons voted against any such move, a shock to the government, which supinely had intended to give way. Instead it had to appeal against the verdict.
Despite his veto over the European Treaty amendments last December I have no real confidence in David Cameron’s ability to stand up to the diktats of the ECHR. He, I suspect, will prove to be an appeaser of deeper dye than Neville Chamberlain. Oh, there is lots of manoeuvring and political posturing, attitudes being struck designed to appeal to an increasingly exasperated Tory back-bench, exasperated by Europe, exasperated by the abuse of human rights and exasperated with the laughable Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, who effectively sabotaged any attempt to pull out of the jurisdiction of Strasbourg as part of Conservative Party policy.
What price freedom, what price sovereignty, what price England? Ah, yes, England; now John of Gaunt’s speech in Richard II comes to mind;
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England..
The fortress is gone, the wall breached, the moat bridged; the enemy is within the gates. The happy breed gets less happy by the day.