UK

What is European Court of Human Rights? Liz Truss shelves Bill of Rights

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he Bill of Rights, championed by former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, has been shelved by Liz Truss’s government.

The law was designed to give ministers the power to ignore human rights rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Earlier this year, Suella Braverman had thrown down the gauntlet to her leadership rivals by saying they should follow her in committing to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights.

Braverman, who replaced Priti Patel as Home Secretary, said it was necessary to leave to deliver Brexit.

But a new source said the bill is unlikely to progress in its current form. The source told the BBC that Ms Truss’s new administration was “reviewing the most effective means to deliver objectives through our legislative agenda”.

What is the ECHR, and what would leaving mean for the UK?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the European Convention on Human Rights?

The ECHR is a treaty that establishes the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as a supranational court of appeal for cases to be heard when they have been rejected by domestic courts.

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up in 1959. It rules on individual or state applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the ECHR.

Since 1998 it has sat as a full-time court and individuals can apply to it directly.

In almost 50 years, the court has delivered more than 10,000 judgments, which are binding on the countries concerned, leading governments to alter their legislation and administrative practice in a wide range of areas.

The ECtHR’s case law makes the convention a powerful instrument for meeting new challenges and consolidating the rule of law and democracy in Europe.

The court is based in Strasbourg, in the Human Rights Building designed by the British architect Lord Richard Rogers in 1994 – a building whose image is known worldwide. From here, it monitors respect for the human rights of 700 million Europeans in the 46 Council of Europe member States that have ratified the Convention.

Which leadership contenders want to leave ECHR?

Mrs Braverman, the Home Secretary, said it was necessary to leave to get on with delivering Brexit.

Concern over the power that the Strasbourg court has over domestic UK laws came to the fore once again during the attempts to deport refugees to Rwanda, which was blocked by the ECHR.

Speaking about the block, Mrs Braverman said: “When people voted for Brexit, they expected we would take back control of our borders.”

She added: “It is unacceptable that a foreign court had stopped the Rwandan deportation flight.

“The British people should be able to vote for their priorities and expect that their government can carry them out. This is the definition of taking back control.

“As Attorney General, I’ve seen first hand the problems the ECHR has caused us.

“Obstructing lawful, politically legitimate deportations by going to the ECHR destroys trust in politics. And does nothing for public safety, or the wellbeing of the victims of people smugglers.

“Keeping us in the ECHR simply fuels the misery of people trafficking in the channel,” said Ms Braverman.

“With all the horrible tragedies that inevitably result from that. We should be better than this.

“We have a long, proud history of respecting human rights in this country. But the ECHR has become a political court which is thwarting our democracy.

“If any of the candidates are serious about tackling illegal immigration and fully taking back control of our borders, then they must also commit to leaving.”

What leaving the ECHR mean?

The Conservative Party has had a long history of disagreement with the Strasbourg court and has on numerous occasions not ruled out leaving it.

In 2013, Theresa May said that all options remained on the table to deal with the court’s interpretation of human rights, but the UK remained a member.

Mr Raab sought to circumvent the court using a new Bill of Rights, rather than simply exiting the body.

The Bill of Rights will replace the Human Rights Act, which was directly incorporated into domestic British law rights set out in the ECHR.

The government says the Bill of Rights will make plain that European Court of Human Rights judgments, including such interim measures, are not binding on UK courts.

Many lawyers argue this is a red herring. The website of the supreme court says UK courts must “take account” of the Strasbourg court but can decline to follow them.

If the Bill of Rights is introduced, other benefits include making it easier to deport foreign criminals by restricting the circumstances in which their right to family life would trump public safety and the need to remove them.

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