The absolute disdain that David Cameron and his party colleagues have shown for the Human Rights settlement that protects citizens here has been apparent for some time. His pre-election commitment to obliterating the Human Rights Act and suppressing the power of the European Court of Human Rights to hold the British Government to account for its rights violations, however, is an appalling attack on each and every citizen here.
“It has often been asked, but rarely answered, which human rights does David Cameron specifically object to? The right to life? The right to freely express one’s views? Or practise religion? The right to privacy? Or freedom from slavery, torture and discrimination? The fact is that each and every fundamental right contained within the Human Rights Act is one which underpins the freedom of our society and establishes a baseline commitment to social justice.
The European Court has served Northern Ireland well in the face of countless violations of human rights by successive British Governments. It was that court that decriminalised homosexuality here and ended the unjustifiable practise of shaming and imprisoning gay and bisexual people. It was also the court that ruled that British Army practices during the troubles amounted to inhuman treatment. This is not a court making decisions on obscure issues; its decisions have had a profound positive impact on our society.
It is clear that Cameron’s electoral sop to middle England is dangerous, extremist and totally unworkable. The role of the European Court isn’t just enshrined in the Human Rights Act. It’s enshrined in Strand One of the Good Friday Agreement and is therefore a matter of international law.
The Conservative leader also hasn’t considered that the case law of the European Court of Justice, which the UK is bound by, is fundamentally intertwined with the Court of Human Rights. In fact, the only way that the Tories can break free of their Human Rights obligations is to leave the European Union.
The SDLP will oppose these proposals at every level. We will work with our colleagues in the Party of European Socialists, with PES MEP and President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and our MPs will vote against any such proposals at Westminster