Human rights, the reintroduction of hanging and what we have lost

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Michael Gove, former Education Secretary, has been appointed Justice Secretary: he is now in charge of the Department for Justice. With this appointment, it is clear that Cameron has plans for potentially radical reform, and regards justice as an area that needs a hardened, radical and senior Tory politician to drive through changes that are likely to be controversial. Gove does have form.

Gove’s first task is to scrap the Human Rights Act, (HRA) which was the previous Labour government’s legislation designed to supplement the European Convention on Human Rights, it came into effect in 2000. The Act makes available a remedy for breach of Convention right without the need to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

As I have previously reported, the rights protected by the Act are quite basic. They include the right to life, liberty and the right to a fair trial; protection from torture and ill-treatment; freedom of speech, thought, religion, conscience and assembly; the right to free elections; the right to fair access to the country’s education system; the right NOT to be given the death penalty; the right to marry and an overarching right not to be discriminated against.

Cameron has argued that it should be repealed just 15 years after its implementation … so that he can pass another unspecified Act – a British Bill of Rights. Why would any government object to citizens being afforded such established, basic protections, which are, after all, very simple internationally shared expectations of any first world liberal democracy?

One sentence from the misleadingly titled document that outlines how the Tories plan to scrap the Human Rights Act – Protecting Human Rights in the UK, (found on page 6 ) – is particularly chilling: “There will be a threshold below which Convention rights will not be engaged.”

Basically this means that human rights will no longer be absolute – they will be subject to stipulations and caveats. The government will establish a threshold below which Convention rights will not be engaged, allowing UK courts to strike out what are deemed trivial cases.

The Tories’ motivation for changing our human rights is to allow reinterpretations to work around the new legislation when they deem it necessary. The internationally agreed rights that the Tories have always seen as being open to interpretation will become much more parochial and open to subjective challenge.

Any precedent that allows a government room for manoeuvre around  basic and fundamental human rights is incredibly dangerous.

No other country has proposed de-incorporating a human rights treaty from its law so that it can introduce a Bill of Rights. The truly disturbing aspect of Cameron’s Bill of Rights pledge is that rather than manifestly building on the HRA, it’s predicated on its denigration and repeal. One has to wonder what his discomfort with the HRA is. The Act, after all, goes towards protecting the vulnerable from neglect of duty and abuse of power of the State. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an International response to the atrocities of World War Two and the rise of fascism and totalitarianism.

During their last term, the Tories contravened the Human Rights of disabled people, women and children. It’s clear that we have a government that regards the rights of most of the population as an inconvenience to be brushed aside.

I also previously reported that Cameron has pledged to leave the European Convention on Human Rights. Cameron has expressed a wish to break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. In future Britain’s courts will no longer be required to take into account rulings from the Court in Strasbourg.

Observation of Human Rights distinguishes democratic leaders from dictators and despots. Human Rights are the bedrock of our democracy, they are universal, and are a reflection of a society’s and a governments’ recognition of the equal worth of every citizens’ life. But the government have an ideology that is founded on distinctly social Darwinist principles.

These principles support economic neoliberalism and political conservatism. Class/social division is justified on the basis of “natural” inequalities among individuals, for the control of property is ludicrously claimed to be a correlate of superior and inherent moral attributes such as industriousness, temperance, and frugality. Attempts to reform society through state intervention, therefore, interfere with natural processes; unrestricted competition and defense of the status quo are in accord with biological selection, from this perspective. The poor are “unfit” and should not be supported and aided; in the struggle for existence, wealth is a sign of success. The Tories believe that some lives, therefore, “naturally” have much more value than others.

Gove, now the Justice Secretary, has previously called for hanging to be reintroduced. Writing in 1998 as a Times columnist, he said Britain was “wrong to abolish hanging” in the 1960s, when the death penalty was outlawed. Gove made the irrational claims that banning hanging  had “led to a corruption of our criminal justice system and the erosion of all our freedoms rather than “a great liberal victory,” as it was seen at the time.

Gove made the incoherent claim that banning hanging has made punishing innocent people “more likely,” he went on to conclude that public opinion had moved in favour of reintroducing hanging and that doing so could repair the broken trust between voters and politicians. Gove said he supported the “return of the noose out of respect for democracy”, and because it would force the courts to act with “scrupulous fairness.”

This deranged, barbaric relic actually said: “Hanging may seem barbarous, but the greater barbarity lies in the slow abandonment of our common law traditions. Were I ever alone in the dock I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeit as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose.”

At the beginning of the 19th century, children in Britain were punished in the same way as adults. They were even sentenced to death for petty theft. It has historically been the case that the poorest tend to be executed, and it remains true: there are no millionaires on death row (See also: Amnesty International UK – Death penalty.)

In 1965, in the UK, Parliament passed Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act, temporarily abolishing capital punishment for murder for 5 years. The Act was then renewed in 1969, by the Labour government under Harold Wilson, making the abolition permanent.

And with the passage of Labour’s Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and their Human Rights Act 1998, the death penalty was finally officially abolished for all crimes in both civilian and military cases, also.

The Human Rights Act is to be abolished, and Cameron has pledged to withdraw from the European Convention. In case you missed the connection, repealing the Human Rights Act will make the reintroduction of capital punishment much easier. The full range of potential consequences of losing our human rights laws are truly terrifying to consider.

For those of you that have campaigned against the Labour Party, claiming that they aren’t quite “left” enough, despite the fact that Miliband was actually offering the most progressive, redistributive policies of ALL the parties, and smaller cuts and for less time. (I guess some of you never bothered reading the Institute of Fiscal Studies Report, or Labour’s manifesto).

Under a Labour government, our Human Rights, NHS and welfare would now be safe. The bedroom tax would now be repealed. We would be rebuilding and making progress as a society instead of regressing and fearfully discussing the threats of tyranny and the possibility of the reintroduction of capital punishment.

We are about to lose everything that made us a civilised first-world country, from our human rights to our post-war settlement: welfare, our National Health Service and what remains of our access to legal aid.

Until the people of this country take some responsibility and demand that politics is based on truth and the needs of the majority, we will continue to have a corrupt authoritarian elite serving only the wants of the 1%.

Love and solidarity to all my comrades, who are mutually grieving a future we have lost, and who acknowledge and face the losses yet to come.

It’s never been more important to help each other through, and we really are going to need to.

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes.

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24 thoughts on “Human rights, the reintroduction of hanging and what we have lost

  1. As I said, it is a painful situation.But we re going to help each other through this. As I pointed out, if you look at the ‘map’ of which constituencies voted Labour… this means, there is a majority of people, regardless of ‘constituencies’ that are aware of the basic need for human rights, human freedom, Love. We have to be strong and fight this, and keep the flame. It doesn’t matter what these Nazis think they can do, the will and love of the people is stronger. Keep the Faith!

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    1. After 60 years or so of hard won decent, civilised protective laws, practices and institutions, we now face the prospect of a descent into a Tory constructed Hobbesian dystopia

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  2. Yeah. They’re Nazis. But they are like ‘Middle England’ Nazis.
    Have you met these wimps?
    Yeah they might be in charge of a Mitsubishii (British run) car showroom (whist procalaiming Nationalistic Pride, but have you met these perma-tan show-jumping fan people? They are gutless.
    They are scared. That is what this whole edifice is built on.

    Thinking that your business in Berkshire is safe?

    It isn’t.

    Because these psychotics? They will destroy your little Middle England lives too. They don’t care, because they are ‘top of the heap’, and even your middle class comfortable fear life-style is nothing to these (political) serial killers.

    What? You got invited to their yacht?

    One night of privilege?

    You are fools.

    Believing they have your best interests at heart.

    They have no heart.They are W.A.S.P. gangsters.

    Don’t buy into their propaganda. The people are stronger than their pathetic constituency gerrymandering bureaucratic bullshit.

    You “Home Counties” cowards don’t realize how these fucks are going to screw you too.

    We will still be here, and we will still have compassion for you, when you are homeless too.

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  3. Thank you for your intelligent and heartbreaking analysis. I think anyone with a soul must be weeping at this turn of events. I am in the process of writing a near future dystopian novel and now I’m going to need to redraft because my worst imaginings are being usurped by reality.

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  4. Reblogged this on iGlinavos and commented:
    We can cry all we want, but if labour had managed a coherent and principled resistance to austerity, we wouldn’t be where we are. Yes to cuts, but in a nicer way was a recipe to ruin and we knew it.

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    1. And still people blame Labour for the fact that they themselves permitted a far right govt of tyrants to win over a govt that would have been staunchly progressve, anti-austerity fair and decent. Try reading the manifesto instead of continuing divisive bullshit and propaganda on my site. It’s uninformed and irrational, lazy people like you that allowed the tories back in

      I do hope you find this government you earned coherent, principled and anti-austerity enough

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      1. Sue, I see them as a bunch of slick confidence trickster criminals. Nothing more than that. One has to look no further than Shapps/Green/Fox, or whatever his real name is. For the vast majority of people, including many who voted for these thugs, dark days lie ahead.

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  5. Most people in Britain approve of hanging for terrorist crimes, multiple murderers etc. Where it should never applied is where someone kills to protect themselves say for example a woman that is beaten regularly by a husband and abused like that and maybe the only they could escape is to kill them. Same with someone maybe killing a severely disabled parent or child. Indeed just in self defence when for example you are robbed by a burglar or attacker within your own home.
    The Tories may however have it planned that anyone coming to Britain via containers or boats could be designated a terrorist spy and are to arrested for espionage and if a citizen; treason. In fact they could have Dover patrolled by soldiers with machine guns and any would migrants/(terrorists) that fail to halt climbing the fence wire is met with a burst of fully automatic machine gun fire.
    If the EU dares to complain …. Gove and Cameron will declare a state of War.

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  6. Reblogged this on Braindroppings and commented:
    This worries me, as it indicates that the Conservatives had put motions in place before the election. To those who believe the lies about how the Human Rights act is protecting criminals and terrorists, go educate yourself, then get back to me.

    As it is, once this is repealed, unless you are rich, we’re all pretty fucked.

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  7. No British political party will ever bring back hanging, they wont even bring back corporal punishment which should be brought back.

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  8. Don’t you DARE blame us for this. I don’t care that he you believe he was ‘was actually offering the most progressive, redistributive policies of ALL the parties, and smaller cuts and for less time.’ He was, unlike the SNP, still PRO-AUSTERITY, and I think you will find that the Green Party had more ‘progressive and redistributive policies’ than Labour. Milliband had to be kicked repeatedly up the backside to agree to get rid of the bedroom tax should he gain power. That’s just one example. As a student, I was less than impressed that he had no intention of repealing the tripling of Tuition Fees. But then it was his Party who introduced them in the first place. He was too busy trying to please everyone and instead he pleased no one.

    Incidentally, I did read their manifesto. It wouldn’t have made any difference if I had voted Labour though as in my constituency, Labour came a very dismal fifth. Instead of blaming the voters and calling us ‘un-Socialist’, which is a laugh considering Labour haven’t been Socialist since they dumped Clause Four, perhaps you should look at Ed Milliband and the Labour Party to determine why they lost an election they should have easily won. We were counting on him and he let us down. As a disabled person, I have more to lose than you do. We have no future and no hope. I might as well kill myself before the Tories do.

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    1. Which bit of “smaller cuts than ALL the other parties” did you irrationally and unintelligently translate into “pro-austerity”? What exactly do you think austerity is? Not cuts? You don’t seem to grasp logic.

      There’s a picture on here that shows Labour planned no austerity cuts, from the IFS manifestos analysis. The picture may suit your small attention span better than the IFS report or my written work – https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/sturgeons-threats-demonstrate-the-anti-democratic-uncooperative-inflexibility-of-nationalism/

      The rest of your rant is incoherent and untrue – it’s precisely this kind of misinformed diversionary bullshit being shared around that lost us the GE. The Bedroom Tax was introduced and made law in 2012 by the tories. Miliband would have cut tuition fees and eventually scrapped them. The Bedroom Tax repeal had to be justified and evidenced, that’s how we are supposed to do policy-making, and as well as staging opposition debates to get the BT scrapped throughout the past couple of years, had Labour won, the BT would now be repealed

      I blame misinformed people for sharing bullshit like you have on my site, and for their lazy lack of responsibility in finding out truth and fact. And the refusal to do any joined up thinking

      As for you having more to lose than me because you are disabled, well as a matter of fact I am disabled too, because of serious illness. So another lazy assumption from you that’s not grounded in fact. Here is my personal info page – https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/about/

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  9. Under certain circumstances I would support the return of hanging; but only for murder, and only if anyone facing the death penalty gets proper legal aid. Otherwise the chance of hanging an innocent person will be high. As for the rest of what this government wants to do, I despise them.

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    1. I totally disagree. State sanctioned murder is incompatible with the UK system of justice, which is based on the concept of rehabilitation, not damnation and punishment. Prior to the 20th century the working class were oppressed and even children were hanged for the crimes of poverty. In a famous case in Nottingham a 7 year old girl was hanged for stealing a loaf. It was botched and she survived with a twisted neck, but in law she had been hanged & pronounced dead so could not be hanged a second time. The law has always been used to subjugate the workers to the will and comfort of those who deign themselves to be our “betters”. Even today the law is skewed to the rich. The post-war consensus that gave us the welfare state, including access to justice, was the final part of civilizing of the upper classes by the working class. Abolition of the death sentence was the final part of repealing unjust laws, as the miscarriages of justice have continued to happen because of inequality of access to the money needed to provide adequate defences, at every level of the system, but the sentence of hanging could not be undone and rehabilitation could never occur. They are now trying to turn every gain made back, and the debate about hanging is a distraction from the sweeping rolling back of many of our rights.

      State sanctioned murder is a sign of failure to truly understand the basics of human rights. If a society has systems that allow some lives to be devalued to the point of execution, then the devaluation seeps out in to all aspects of society. We – the UK – were instrumental in the development of the codification of human rights as an expression of the horror of the events under the Nazis, and continue today in states around the world. It tells the entire planet what is right and what is wrong.

      The Nazis started by devaluing the lives of the ill and disabled, then moved through racial groups and to political opponents, to the “final solution”, not forgetting the deaths of millions of Russians & others through war crimes of Germany, Russia, Japan, and others. The conservatives have begun an all-out assault on the working class, in the last 5 years attacking the disabled, the chronically ill, harsh treatment of the mentally ill, now proposing forced treatment of those with MH and other problems, the banning of trade union activity, the loss of free speech, the imposition of a police state, and secret trials, and other abuses. We cannot give an inch to these who want to return to the horrors of the old class system. The difference is now is that the HRA, the UN and the European conventions show that we know the rights & wrongs, and value of each and every one of us as equals.

      The hanging debate is the thin end of the wedge to allowing all of us to be divided into the worthy and not-worthy of being treated as human beings, by a class system that has returned with a vengeance. You can almost feel the hot spite and rage against us, the majority, the eugenics and treatment of us as “stock”, as working animals, not fully human that has festered for the last 70 years. I think they may be in for a very big surprise. They have been given the opportunity to progress, and if they want a war now, we may not be so forgiving as to leave their cherished institutions, schools, estates, positions of authority as birthright intact this time.

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  10. Well said, both in the article and in this response to a spectacularly unaware victim of the Tory propaganda machine.

    No party is perfect, but even if one didn’t fully back the Labour manifesto no amount of sophistry will make the re-election of the Tories an appropriate response to slight disappointment. This type won’t ever admit what they did was essentially ensure we have the most horrendous 5 years ahead of us. Especially the chronically ill and disabled, including myself, who thought that the UK people still had a sense of real fair play and decency (not the debased “fairness to tax payers” of IDS and his benefit cuts). I really fear the death toll will be appalling but it will remain hidden as May will declare all of us who disagree with them to be terrorists and banned from writing, printing and circulating anything thought critical of the government, It is as bad as Russia under Stalin, or North Korea.

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    1. Very well said Florence, and I’m as horrified at the outcome, it speaks to us of a nation that lives out their individual parochialised existences in absolute and claustrophobic self-interest, in a perpetual state of short term memory loss, with no capacity for a community orientaton, connection with others or joined-up thinking.

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