Mixed joint committee report on UK government’s adherence to ECHR

Mixed joint committee report on UK government’s adherence to ECHR

In a report published today, the UK parliament’s joint committee on human rights has given a mixed view of the UK government’s track record on complying with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and has expressed concern about delays on implementing judgments in Northern Ireland.

The joint committee said it was concerned by the government’s failure to implement the judgments relating to prisoner voting and recommended the next government bring forward legislation to implement the recommendations of the joint committee on the draft prisoner voting bill to demonstrate the UK’s continuing commitment to the rule of law.

In addition, the committee noted that the UK is under a binding legal obligation to implement ECtHR judgments, an obligation it voluntarily assumed when it signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights(ECHR), and said its continuing failure to amend the law on prisoner voting undermines the UK’s credibility when invoking the rule of law to pressurise other states to comply with their legal obligations.

The committee also expressed concern about delays in the implementation of some judgments in Northern Ireland and recommended that the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive need to consider what lessons are to be learned from the seven years it has taken for the Marper judgment to be implemented in Northern Ireland, to prevent delays of this unacceptable length occurring again.

The committee welcomed the provisions in the Stormont House Agreement establishing the historical investigations unit as a potentially significant breakthrough in the implementation of a number of outstanding judgments concerning inadequate investigations into deaths in Northern Ireland.

However, it was concerned that the legacy investigation branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which is to carry out the work of the historical enquiries team until the historical investigations unit is established, cannot itself satisfy the requirements of article 2 ECHR because of its lack of independence from the police service.

It was also concerned by the five year limit on the work of the new unit. The committee recommended that legislation establishing the historical investigations unit be treated as an urgent priority by the new government.

The committee also said:

  • It is concerned that the government’s failure to implement the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) judgment may be prolonging the chilling effect on freedom of expression and recommended that the new government treat this Leveson recommendation as a priority.
  • recommended that the government bring forward the amendments to the two documents which are necessary in order to make clear to a person who is the subject of a whole life order that they can apply to the secretary of state for discretionary release.
  • reported that the government’s systems for responding promptly and fully to court judgments concerning human rights are generally working well.
  • commended the government for its annual report on human rights judgments and recommends some ways to make the report still more useful to parliament, including by turning it into an “Annual Human Rights Report” to parliament which would then form the basis of the annual appearance of the human rights minister before this committee.
  • recommended that the government become a champion of increasing parliamentary involvement in the ECHR system, beginning with the forthcoming Brussels Declaration on “Our Shared Responsibility” for the Convention rights which will be adopted at the end of March.
  • Report: Human Rights Judgments

    Report: Human Rights Judgments (PDF)

    Human Rights Judgments

    Joint Committee on Human Rights

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