Human Rights and Political Wrongs

In his recent study for Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project, Sir Noel Malcolm (All Souls College, Oxford) considers European Human Rights law and finds it wanting. The European Court of Human Rights, he argues, operates on principles that are incoherent and inconsistently applied; this means that in some ways it fails to meet the basic requirements of the rule of law. Over time, it has extended the scope of the rights in the European Convention far beyond their actual meaning, making tendentious use of what it calls the aims and purposes of the Convention. And as Human Rights law expands, it encroaches on areas of democratic decision-making that should be the responsibility of our elected legislature.  Sir Noel argues that human rights need to be rethought from their foundations and should be understood to be concerned not with everything that is morally important, but rather with essential limits on state power.

In February, Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project convened a panel discussion to address Sir Noel’s critique of European human rights law – and his robust conclusion that the UK ought to withdraw from the Convention. Sir Noel was joined in conversation by Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve, former Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Professor John Finnis, University of Oxford, and Rt Hon Lord Phillips of Worth Martravers, former President of the UK Supreme Court. The panel discussion was covered in the Telegraph and The Times and our panellists have kindly agreed to commit their further thoughts to writing.  We are pleased across the next few days to publish their comments, together with two other contributions by Professor John Tasioulas and Professor Guglielmo Verdirame from King’s College London. The exchange will conclude with a reply from Sir Noel.

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