ECHR is a success, says former Attorney General Dominic Grieve
The European Convention on Human Rights is “arguably the single most important legal and political instrument for promoting human rights on our planet”, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP told an audience in Edinburgh yesterday.
Mr Grieve’s comments were made as part of the Rule of Law Lecture, a joint event between theFaculty of Advocates and the Bar Council of England and Wales, and facilitated by Beyond Borders Scotland.
Speaking to an audience in the Faculty’s Laigh Hall within Parliament House, Mr Grieve posed the question: “Is the European Convention on Human Rights Working?”
He said that an examination of the work of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) since 1960 showed that its impact had been profound and beneficial. He cited several examples, including the ending of state discrimination against children on the grounds of illegitimacy and of judicially-sanctioned corporal punishment.
“What is striking about these decisions is how well they have stood the test of time…although they were controversial at the time, some of them extremely so, the human rights norms which they express are now ones we largely take for granted,” he stated.
Turning to the increase in recent times in the number of member states of the Council of Europe, Mr Grieve said the Strasbourg Court was now a court of final resort for some 800 million people, many living in states where “the principles underpinning the rule of law are often misunderstood, misapplied or ignored.”
He added: “…the Convention has been of the greatest importance in helping promote the Rule of Law in environments where it has never previously existed.”
Mr Grieve noted that the UK government had announced a series of proposals which “display considerable ambivalence” to the value of the Convention.
“The Government has stated that it will publish a detailed consultation paper on its ideas for a Bill of Rights and our future relations with the Convention this autumn. I very much welcome this,” he said.
“…I rather suspect that in doing so, it will have to accept the overwhelming evidence that the Convention, when viewed in its totality, has been and remains today a success, arguably the single most important legal and political instrument for promoting human rights on our planet…I am convinced that if this matter is debated with determination and good humour, we will get the right answer at the end of the day.”
Mr Grieve also addressed questions from the audience on the wording of the Human Rights Act, whether the ECHR was strong enough on freedom of speech, and how increased migration would affect the debate.
He added that private polling conducted by the Conservatives ahead of the general election found only 16 per cent of voters thought reforming Britain’s human rights law should be a priority.