Citizenship | PSHE

Democracy ‘threat’ from new bill of rights

Is Britain making a terrible mistake? The UK government says the new bill will stop bogus claims. But many say it threatens free speech and undermines basic human rights.  For some two thousand years, Europe was the most violent continent on the planet. But in the middle of the 20th Century, this bloodsoaked continent resolved to put an end to the suffering and the cruelty.  In 1949, the leaders of ten European states drafted the European Convention on Human Rights, a charter of individual rights that would bind all of its members, and established the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to enforce its rules. One of the most enthusiastic supporters of this new convention was British prime minister Winston Churchill. But today, the party of Churchill has turned against the convention. Justice secretary Dominic Raab has announced that it will be replaced in UK law with a new bill of rights. Under the bill, it will become harder to bring human rights cases against the government. It will water down the government’s responsibility to protect people’s human rights. The government argues that courts can currently interpret laws in ways never intended by legislators, and so the bill is necessary to ensure the sovereignty of parliament.  But some human rights groups and legal professionals think the new legislation is misguided and dangerous. They point out that rulings from the ECHR are not binding on UK courts anyway. They claim that the bill will effectively decriminalise a whole swathe of human rights abuses. Some think it is a sign that the government is heading down an increasingly authoritarianEnforcing strict obedience to authority. path. They point out that the government is effectively seeking to change the UK’s uncodified constitution. In most countries, this is a process that would require years of discussion and compromise. But here, the government can use its majority to force the changes through in months, without everyone agreeing. Is Britain making a terrible mistake? Rights and wrongs Yes: This new legislation gives the government unprecedented power to trample on the rights and liberties of its citizens and of the world’s most vulnerable people. No: The elected government must be able to govern without running into red tape and legal obstacles. The UK has a strong human rights tradition that will be adequate to protect our freedoms. Or… The substance of the bill is not really what matters. It is the fact that the government is trying to force it through without any scrutiny. We should be very worried by this autocraticRelating to a ruler with total power. turn in British politics.       KeywordsAuthoritarian - Enforcing strict obedience to authority.

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