Of course the Human Rights Act is a “Constitution of Liberty”

Guy Herbert, of No2ID, gave a talk recently where he argued that the Human Rights Act (HRA) is “a constitution of liberty”. And though this may surprise some readers, I wholeheartedly agree with him.

The HRA guarantees that no one is to be deprived of their life, unless the state decides they can be and sentences them to death; or unless the state claims it found it necessary to kill them to defend another person, or arrest another person, or stop another person escaping arrest, or simply because killing them might be somehow useful to the state in its role of peacekeeper.

The HRA guarantees that no one shall be subjected by the state to what the state defines as torture or inhuman treatment.

It guarantees that no one can be made to perform “forced or compulsory labour”. “Forced or compulsory labour” does not include conscription, or “any service exacted in case of [what the state defines as] an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community [my emphasis]”, or “any work or service which forms part of [what the state claims are] normal civic obligations”.

The HRA guarantees that no one may be deprived of their “right to liberty”, unless, in accordance with the laws it itself writes, the state decides they may be.

It guarantees that everyone the state accuses of a crime has the right to what the state considers to be a fair trial.

It guarantees that no one can be punished for an act (or omission) that was not a crime when it was (or was not) committed, unless at the time when it was committed it really was a crime according to the opinion of “civilised nations”.

The HRA guarantees that everyone has the right to “respect for” their private life, unless the state claims that for reasons of “national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals [my emphasis throughout]” they don’t.

It also guarantees that everyone has the right to freedom of thought until the state considers this to be a nuisance “in a democratic society”, and so “in the interests of public safety, [or] for the protection of public order, health or morals [my emphasis]”, they don’t.

It guarantees that everyone has the “right to freedom of expression,” but, “since this freedom carries with it duties and responsibilities… in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation[!] or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence[!], or for maintaining the authority and [what the state calls] impartiality of the judiciary [my emphasis throughout]” the state can force them to shut up if it wants to.

The HRA guarantees that everyone has the “right to freedom of association” unless it is necessary “in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals” [my emphasis], that they not have it.

It guarantees that everyone who the state says can marry, can marry.

It guarantees that the law applies to all equally (that is, that the law is the law) and that the state may treat foreigners differently for political reasons.

It guarantees that everyone’s property is inviolable, except when the state considers it “in the public interest” to violate it; or unless the state “deems [it] necessary to control the use of [an individual’s] property in accordance with the general interest”. It also guarantees – and this might be confusing if you believe that “rights” are something individuals have – that the state may not be impaired “in any way” when it comes to levying taxes or the securing of “other contributions”.

It guarantees that everyone can force someone else to educate them.

And, naturally, the HRA guarantees that everyone has the right to participate in free, fair and frequent democratic elections.

Yes. This is precisely what I would expect “a constitution of liberty” to look like.

Twitter @StrictlyLiberal

Google+ Rocco Bogpaper

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2 thoughts on “Of course the Human Rights Act is a “Constitution of Liberty”

  1. Indeed sir! The freedom to do exactly as you are told and foresee any possible changes that I may make after the fact.
    Go forth and enjoy your freedom. Or else!

    Like

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