Daily Archives: 13 May 2006

Are Afghan hijackers human?

A terrific kerfuffle is waging over a judge’s decision to grant 9 Afghan hijackers asylum, with both Blair and Cameron muttering about human rights.

What do human rights have to do with it? No-one is seriously questioning that we should extradite people to countries where we can expect them to be oppressed or badly treated are they? The question is less about the Human Rights Act and more about the current state of Afghanistan and the judge’s decision.

Cameron is now promising to “reform, replace or scrap” the HRA. Well, make up your bloody mind, which is it? We’ve had this nonsense from the Tory front benches for years now, and they have consistently refused to spell out exactly what their problem is. It’s utterly ludicrous because if we did scrap or otherwise water down the HRA all that would happen is that more high profile cases would get resolved by judges in Strasbourg and not the UK, while other human rights abuses will simply be allowed to continue. Or are we now going to leave the Council of Europe?

Judicial activism in the UK is unrecognisable compared to the highly politicised games that go on in the US. It is only problematic if we have a government that is cavalier about Human Rights. Labour seem to think the fact they introduced the HRA means they must now be regarded as immune from it. The problem stems from the fact that the broad coalition that brought Labour to power in 1997 has now been sloughed off, and we are left with an authoritarian, illiberal core that doesn’t quite understand why it did half the things it did in the first three years of power.

The Tories meanwhile are beginning to embrace a lot of what we might call the “democracy” agenda, but are being incredibly selective. Yes to elected Police Commissioners, citizen’s initiatives, more power to local authorities, but no to electoral reform, a written constitution or human rights. The result is more power to the majority (or, more accurately in most cases, the plurality), but no safeguards to protect minority interests. I’m not sure I would describe mob rule as democracy.

As well as the “green tests” that Campbell and Huhne have been setting the Tories, we should be setting them a number of “liberty” tests as well, since they are so keen to co-opt this agenda. After all, those of us who remember the 90s recall that back then Tony Blair was falling over himself to demonstrate what a liberal he was as well. The Tories weren’t so keen on civil liberties back then either.