In the same way that Hitler used democratic means to impose a fascist dictatorship upon Germany in 1933, David Cameron has proclaimed that being voted into power by less than 25% of the voting-eligible population has given him a mandate to do the same in 2015. Shortly after the election he came out with a chilling statement:
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”
In addition to vowing to scrap the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’, Cameron is also “refusing to rule out” leaving the European Convention on Human Rights – a treaty created to protect the continent from tyranny following WWII. The PM has so far offered no indication of which rights enshrined in the Human Rights Acts his party wish to do-away with, merely labeling the HRA “excessive.” Yes, we Brits have “excessive” human rights. I suppose when the HRA is abolished we will no longer have human rights, just British rights. After all there is no ‘human’ in British Bill of Rights. Human rights are supposed to be universal, not things to be chipped away at again and again because of the supposed ‘threat’ of the day. The idea that we currently have too many of them is ludicrous, and why the threat to withdraw from the ECHR is so terrifying. Cameron’s statement on the matter in parliament today was revolting, insulting, and embarrassing:
“Let me be very clear about what we want, which is British judges making decisions in British courts. And also the British parliament being accountable to the British people.
Now our plans, set out in our manifesto, don’t involve us leaving the European convention on human rights. But let’s be absolutely clear. If we can’t achieve what we need – and I’m very clear about that when we’ve got these foreign criminals committing offence after offence and we can’t send them home because of their right to a family life – that needs to change. And I rule out absolutely nothing in getting that done.”
What the Tories are demanding is a veto over rulings made by the ECHR that they don’t like, and if such a reform isn’t granted, to withdraw from the treaty altogether. The main issue of contention with regard to the ECHR seems to be article 8, which says everyone has the right to respect for his of her private and family life, home and correspondence. By leaving the treaty or holding veto power over its recommendations, the government would be able to deport all these foreign criminals we supposedly have without giving a toss for their home and family situation. The Cameron regime is once again fearmongering about a tiny number of immigrants to justify removing rights and imposing more authoritarian laws on us all, while child abuse within the upper echelons of Westminster is covered up and the evidence destroyed.
The other pertinent article is no. 3: no torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. There are numerous examples of this government being both indifferent to and complicit in torture, including its participation in the CIA’s rendition programme, and having previously granted diplomatic immunity to Bahraini Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who stands accused of torturing prisoners during the country’s uprising in 2011. Despite no longer receiving such immunity, Nasser continues to spend time in London without facing arrest. It is no secret that the UK is Bahrain’s staunchest Western ally – its monarch skipped the recent GCC summit at Camp David to attend a horse show with the Queen, and it has been announced that we are soon to operate a new naval base on the tiny Persian Gulf state – a clear indicator of the imperial mindset that still permeates our establishment. This news was met in Bahrain by protests and a law suit, which advocates that Britain clearly ignored the dreadful human rights situation in the country when accepting the offer. It can be assumed that the our presence there will effectively be to protect the Sunni minority rulers from their long-oppressed Shia majority. It has now been revealed by the last remaining UK citizen to be held at Guantanamo Bay – Saudi-born Shaker Aamer – that MI6 officers have attended interrogations in which he was tortured.
It is worth noting that the only European country that isn’t a member of the ECHR is Belarus, which is also considered Europe’s only remaining dictatorship. Giving a speech on the ECHR in 2012, Cameron said:
Over sixty years ago the Convention was drafted with very clear intentions.
It was born in a continent reeling from totalitarian rule…
…shocked by the brutality of the holocaust…
…sickened by man’s inhumanity to man.
Its purpose was clear: to spread respect for vital human rights across the continent – for life, liberty and the integrity of the person.
It has achieved some vitally important things over the decades: exposing torture; winning victories against degrading treatment in police custody; holding heavy-handed states to account.
And since the Berlin Wall fell, it has played a major role in strengthening democracy across central and Eastern Europe.
Of course, we should remember that oppression and brutality are not just facts of Europe’s past.
As we sit here today, in Belarus there are people being thrown into prison for their political beliefs.
Dissidents’ voices are being silenced and their rights are being crushed.
What is happening less than a thousand miles from here underlines the continuing importance and relevance of the Council, the Convention and the Court.
It reminds us that now, more than ever, we need a Court that is a beacon for the cause of human rights, ruthlessly focused on defending human freedom and dignity, respected across the continent and the world.
It now seems that three years later, the Conservatives have looked to Belarus as a model for implementing their extremist agenda. A few days ago new Justice Secretary Michael Gove talked about enhancing human rights for “the majority,” yet again missing the point that human rights are universal, and play a vital role in protecting the minorities that Cameron and co. are so keen to discriminate against. During the Queen’s Speech it was revealed that Theresa May will not only revive the dreaded Snooper’s Charter that previously failed to pass during the coalition with the Lib Dems, but enhance it. The charter would require internet and mobile phone companies to keep records of customers’ browsing activity, emails, social media use, voice calls, text messages and online gaming for a year. Commenting on May’s plans, human rights watchdog Privacy International’s legal director Carly Nyst said:
“Theresa May’s comments confirm that widespread public concern about the threats posed to online privacy and expression by internet monitoring powers has been completely ignored by the new government.
Communications data legislation has been repeatedly criticised by experts and politicians from all reaches of the political spectrum, and has been beaten back by the public and civil society time and time again.
Reviving it as a policy priority is a clear sign both of an insatiable appetite for spying powers, and intentions to continue to sacrifice the civil liberties of Britons everywhere on the altar of national security.”
It seems highly likely that the Snooper’s Charter (labeled by The Daily Beast as the UK’s ‘Patriot Act on steroids’) will violate both the HRA and the ECHR. Furthermore it makes a complete mockery of Cameron’s claim that he wants the British parliament to be accountable to the British public, as Westminster will only be accountable if citizens have the ability to appeal to the ECHR! What the Tories want is full control over British courts, where the flimsiest evidence will be used to prosecute Muslims and foreigners (to begin with) of crimes such as ‘support for terrorism’, and ‘attempting to overthrow democracy’.
Last year it was revealed in Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement that budget cuts will become so extreme over the next few years that they will match spending levels not seen since the 1930s. This is to include over £12 million of welfare cuts, which may include cuts to disability benefits. The cruel and ineffective ‘Bedroom Tax’ will also continue.
In November, documents obtained via Freedom of Information requests, and released by the Disability News Service, revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have carried out 60 investigations into the deaths of benefits claimants since February 2012.
This information followed a series of reports published by the campaign group Black Triangle, which uncovered over 40 cases of citizens having committed suicide due to the slashing or removal of their disability benefits. Other deaths by the disabled were attributed to claimants having been deemed ‘fit to work’ at their mandatory Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
These assessments are controversial due to their inaccuracy, with claimants often being judged by assessors holding no knowledge of their particular disability, and the overall purpose of the WCA’s being to lower unemployment numbers rather than help the individual.
Repeated WCA’s can become so distressing that citizens stop claiming altogether, which is beneficial for the government as they save money and have one less statistic to count. There are examples of patients suffering from illnesses such as terminal cancer and brain damage having been found fit for work; in 2013 a woman who had undergone both a heart and lung transplant died days after being told her disability benefit would be stopped due to her having being deemed capable of returning to work.
Thankfully, the government’s chronic mistreatment of the disabled is increasingly garnering attention. Last week a judge ruled that delays in the payment of disability benefits to two claimants by the DWP were unlawful. The individuals – whose experiences have been shared by hundreds of thousands of others – were left vulnerable, depressed and without being able to afford enough food for months while their claims were being processed. However, the judge ruled that there had been no breach of the claimants’ human rights, which meant that there was no case for compensation.
More significantly, Iain Duncan Smith’s disability benefit changes are currently under investigation by the United Nations.
The UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is probing whether the DWP’s treatment of the disabled has led to “grave or systemic violations” of human rights. This announcement followed a report by the English non-profit Just Fair last year which said the UK was in danger of going from a world leader in disability rights to a “systematic violator of these same rights.”
Responding to the news of the UN’s enquiry, Tory MP Michael Ellis said:
“This politically motivated loony left decision brings the UN organisation in to disrepute At a time when there are grave international crises around the world and when in do
dozens of countries around the world there are no benefits available, this absurd decision is made to attack our country which rightly does more than almost any other to protect the rights of disadvantaged people from all walks of life.”
It is statements such as these which are increasingly leaving the UK looking like a rogue regime on the world stage, and lacking in credibility when it comes to preaching to others on human rights – something David Cameron and co. seem to take great pleasure in doing. Lawsuits brought against the government by the disabled and other marginalised citizens, such as that mentioned above, may also factor in to the Tories plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and possibly leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is clear that the new government view their slim majority as the go-ahead to remake British society in their image, whether they have the support of the public or not.
Speech on the European Court of Human Rights
Theresa May to revive her ‘snooper’s charter’ now Lib Dem brakes are off
* Update – It has now been revealed that cuts will be made to disability claimants’ benefits. The naval base in Bahrain was also quietly opened a few weeks ago, with very little media fanfare.