Our first look at the European Convention on Human Rights introduced the legislation and its importance in our daily lives. This piece looks at myth-busting some common misconceptions, with the aim of shining a spotlight on the truth with the precision of a laser beam.
Expect to be enlightened, possibly amused, and definitely armed with enough factual ammo to debunk the next dinner-table debate.
Myth No.1: The ECHR is an EU Instrument
Straight off, let’s clear up the fog. The ECHR is not the brainchild of Brussels-based eurocrats. In fact, it is no more a product of the EU than fish and chips is an Italian dish. The ECHR is the brainchild of the Council of Europe, an entirely separate entity to the EU with a broad membership, including countries like Greece and Turkey. So, linking the ECHR to the EU is like confusing a zebra for a horse – superficially similar, but fundamentally different.
Myth No.2: The ECHR undermines UK Sovereignty
This one is a classic, often sung by politicians who see sovereignty as a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of deal. The truth? The ECHR doesn’t dictate laws to the UK. Rather, it operates like a referee in a football match, ensuring that fair play and rules are observed. UK courts retain their independence and sovereignty, with the ECHR serving as an agreement to play by certain rules of decency and humanity, not requiring any participant to relinquish control.
Myth No.3: Leaving the ECHR would empower the UK
The idea that ditching the ECHR would suddenly elevate the UK to some sort of legal superpower is a fallacy. In reality, leaving the ECHR would diminish the UK’s reputation on the world stage. We are not talking just about laws here; it is about standing by values that are admired and respected on the global platform. It’s like choosing to resign from a distinguished club only to find yourself left off the guest list of all the best parties. Moreover, leaving the ECHR would jeopardise the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and aspects of the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement.
Myth No.4: The ECHR imposes foreign values on the UK
Let’s be clear – the UK was one of the primary architects of the ECHR. Claiming it imposes foreign values on the UK is as ridiculous as suggesting that all bananas now have to be straight. The convention reflects a post-WWII consensus on fundamental rights, many of which are echoed in the UK’s own traditions of liberty and justice. Indeed, the UK has incorporated the rights and values of the ECHR into UK law through the Human Rights Act.
The ECHR – upholding rights, not undermining sovereignty
As we wrap up our myth-busting expedition, we can see that the European Convention on Human Rights isn’t the nefarious, sovereignty-stealing bogeyman some would have us believe. It is a constitutional guardian angel, or a wise sage offering guidance based on wisdom and experience, quietly ensuring that the values of human dignity and fairness are woven into the fabric of our society.
The ECHR doesn’t tie the UK’s hands; rather, it reinforces the principles that the UK itself helped to establish and has long championed. It’s a reminder that, in the world of human rights, we’re not just playing for the home crowd but are part of a global team.
Moreover, the ECHR serves as a beacon of stability and justice, not just in the UK, but across Europe. To turn our backs on it would be to dim the light of progress and take a step into the shadows.
So, let us appreciate the ECHR for what it really is: a foundational pillar supporting a network designed to protect human dignity and rights. It’s not a shackle but a safety net, ensuring that as we leap towards progress, we don’t fall back into the darker recesses of history. It’s about moving forward with a shared understanding of decency, not regressing into a past where might often overruled right.