On 9 November 2018, twenty years will have passed since the enactment of the Human Rights Act, which has incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK domestic law. But this anniversary will be marked by continued uncertainty about the future operation of the Convention in the UK. 

The relationship of the UK with the European Court of Human Rights has become highly contentious in recent years, with the Strasbourg Court’s decisions on prisoners’ rights, whole life tariffs, deportation of foreign suspected terrorists and the action of UK military forces abroad generating fierce criticism from the tabloid press and even from (the Conservative-minded part of) broadsheet press (The Telegraph has characteristically called Strasbourg ‘the toxic European Court of Human Rights’). The April 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto contained the pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new British Bill of Rights. The 2017 Conservative Party Manifesto adopted a more nuanced, but equally hostile, approach to the ECHR:

“We will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway but we will consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes. We will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament”.

The Goldsmiths Law – Knowing Our Rights symposium at the British Academy will interrogate the UK government’s ECHR narrative that risks reducing human rights into commodities with a ‘use-by date’.

To provide a reliable, evidence-based, counterpoint, the symposium will adopt an article-by-article analytical framework that will seek to identify the Convention’s effect on UK domestic law; positive, negative or neutral?

The symposium will bring together academics from different disciplines, human rights experts, barristers, judges, Parliamentarians and third sector experts.

Presentations will include analysis on:

• the right to life;
• the habeas corpus’ application to cases involving life sentence prisoners, those detained on grounds of mental health, and, more recently, those detained as terrorist suspects;
• what Article 8 has done for privacy, and why this is at the root of the press’s hatred of the ECHR;
• the Convention’s effect on sexual orientation equality;
• the right against torture;
• the Court’s rich jurisprudence on fair trial rights and UK backtracking on suspects’ rights;
• the reverse question, of ‘what has the UK done for the ECHR’.

This symposium is taking place in the context of the Goldsmiths-based Knowing Our Rights research project, which aims to provide analysis, and to deepen and increase understanding, of the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in the UK, based on academic scholarship and engagement with the public.

For more information on the symposium and ‘Knowing Our Rights’ contact Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos at d.giannoulopoulos@gold.ac.uk

Britain in Europe Open Society Foundation Goldsmiths University
auto draft 1 e1489666230929 - What has the ECHR ever done for the UK?

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