Christmas Rights – Article 6 Right to a fair trial

Article 6 (like our right to liberty) is one of the most fundamental rights in supporting our democratic society. Although many of us will hopefully never have to ensure this right is invoked it is nonetheless central to ensuring we achieve justice. The right to a fair trial is set out as such:

1              In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.

2              Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

3              Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(a)          to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;

(b)          to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;

(c)           to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;

(d)          to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(e)          to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

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Christmas Rights – Article 5 Right to Liberty and Security of person

Our right to liberty and security is set out in quite a lengthy manner:

1              Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(a)          the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

(b)          the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(c)           the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

(d)          the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority;

(e)          the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants;

(f)           the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.

2              Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reasons for his arrest and of any charge against him.

3              Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.

4              Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.

5              Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

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Obama Administration Fights To Withhold Over 2,000 Photos Of Alleged U.S. Torture and Abuse – by Jonathan Turley

President Obama once pledged that his government would be the most transparent in history — a claim that is often mocked by civil libertarians and other critics who accuse him of almost Nixonian secrecy policies and inclinations. That troubling record is playing out again before U.S District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Administration continues to fight to withhold over 2,000 images of torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan simply because it would make the United States look bad. Ironically, there is a transparent element to this case. Few Administration have been so transparently obvious in their use of classification rule to simply bar the disclosure of information that would be embarrassing to officials or the government. Usually, the Justice Department attempts to spin a tale of some other national security rationale for non-disclosure. Here, however, there is nothing even plausible to come up with. The Obama Administration simply wants to deep six the photos because people would be really angry if they saw what the government did, including photos that are believed to be far worse than those Abu Ghraib (like the one above).


Hellerstein gave the Justice Department until December 12th to come a rational explanation why each individual photograph has been withheld from the public. In 2009, Obama insisted that disclosing the photos would “further inflame anti-American opinion.” However, that rationale could be used for wholesale cover ups and information controls by the government. The government never wants bad information to come out and would prefer to say that it is protecting the public from any backlash. This includes criticism of Obama’s pledge, soon after being elected, not to allow the prosecution of officials responsible for the torture program. Whatever the backlash, it is far more dangerous to allow the government to pick and choose what “bad news” or bad images will reach the public. The photographs are also important for historians and academics in fully documenting this period of history.

Such censorship is more likely to be an effort to manage domestic public opinion than it is extreme foreign elements. If Obama can do this on detainees, the next president can use the same power in countless other areas. Obama supporters have been willfully blind to the precedent that they are creating in such positions.

The Obama Administration has set the record for censoring information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The penchant for secrecy in this Administration is creating a new level of government control over information that will likely be replicated by the next Administration. No administration wants to release negative information unless it has to do so. That latter prospect is now in the hands of Judge Hellerstein.

 A little example of the battle we still face in condemning torture to the past. Widespread torture apparently occurred in the War on Terror (as I referred to in my post on Article 3) and we still have no idea about the full extent of it. Therefore there is an extremely good chance that people have still not faced trial for these crimes.

Law merely paves the way for us to change our ways – it is nothing without action! Thank you to Jonathan Turley for posting the article originally, on his blog which can be found below.

Source: Obama Administration Fights To Withhold Over 2,000 Photos Of Alleged U.S. Torture and Abuse

Christmas Rights – Article 4 Prohibition of slavery and forced labour

Another day, another article and yet another that I’m sure you’re incredibly glad to have. Article 4 affords us the luxury of not being subjected to slavery or servitude:

1              No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

2              No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

3              For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:

(a)          any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;

(b)          any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;

(c)           any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

(d)          any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

 

What does this mean?

This means no one can enslave you or force you to work against your wishes. Like Article 3, this is an absolute right as well – there are no circumstances at all where slavery or forced labour is acceptable. However, as you can see from the article itself, the scope of what constitutes forced labour is made quite clear, unlike in previous articles where its scope is left rather vague for the courts to interpret as they deem necessary for our society at present. Here, work done in detention (such as community service), national service, work in emergencies and work as part of your normal civic obligations (for example, jury service) do not constitute forced labour.

Although they quite clearly set out what doesn’t constitute an infringement of Article 4 in the Act – there is still the common vagueness of what does constitute an infringement. An infringement would mean that slavery and forced labour are not illegal (so the law needs to protect people from it). Secondly, as the case of C.N. & V v France (2012) shows, signatory states to the ECHR must fully investigate suspicions of slavery and servitude in an effort to combat them – otherwise they fail to meet their obligations under the Convention and therefore infringe it.

What is slavery/forced labour? Well, it doesn’t just entail the Les Miserables introduction of a ball and chain around your ankle and being whipped whilst thousands belt out a song. It includes human trafficking (something Cyprus learnt very quickly in the case of Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia) for example. But, yes the stereotypical examples are still around and therefore that is what Article 4 is there to stop. In Siliadin v France, a young girl was forced to work unpaid in a private household for a number of years, without pay or days off. She had entered France with the hope of studying and had no idea that the reality of this situation lay ahead of her. The European Court of Human Rights actually came to the decision that this did not constitute her being enslaved, because her ‘employers’ did not have such legal ownership over her, to reduce her to a mere ‘object’. As astonishing as this decision sounds, luckily it was held she was being held in servitude so there was a violation, but it does show how strange the scope of this topic really can be.

Is the prohibition adhered to?

Again like Article 3, slavery has a long history in our world. I am sure many of you have read and learned about the slave triangle for example and understand that in the past slavery has been a welcome part of our society at the time. This is obviously not the case anymore. An infinite number of conventions, rules and regulations prohibit slavery and forced labour worldwide. Unfortunately again, simply criminalising something is not sufficient to stem the flow. This article from 2013 suggests there are still 30 MILLION slaves in the world today, spread all around the world, showing the epidemic we still face. Not only that, but the reasons people still continue with such a practice is clear – it is an extremely lucrative business – the International Labour Organisation predicting it generates £96 BILLION a year, mostly through prostitution. The UK has struggled to combat this problem regardless of laws such as Article 4’s presence (for evidence of this, look at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation at www.jrf.org.uk – they can also help you get involved in combatting the problem if you so wish), introducing new laws as recently as this year (the Modern Slavery Act 2015) in an attempt to combat the flow of forced labour in the UK.

So far, adherence has not been outstanding in the UK, and as we have seen above, this leaves the executive in a worrying position as they are liable if protections are not in place for people to avoid slavery and forced labour. However, it must be said, that the UK performs much better than many. In India for example, it is estimated that at least 1 in 100 people are subjected to slavery or forced labour. It is also a great improvement on our embarrassing historic involvement in tragedies such as the Slave Triangle.

Hopefully, this improvement will continue and soon enough this lucrative, yet evil business will be halted. But, in the meantime, enjoy that you (hopefully) know a little more about what Article 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 affords you in terms of protection. Maybe, even use that foundational knowledge as the start of learning a little more, and maybe even get involved in helping combat forced labour! This is obviously all before tomorrow when I ask you to come and learn a little more about our right under Article 5 – to liberty and security (my favourite). Have a good day everyone!

Christmas Rights – Article 3 Prohibition of torture

The prohibition of torture is set out in one sentence in the Human Rights Act 1998:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

What does this mean?

Torture can be defined as an act where severe physical or mental pain is intentionally inflicted on a person, for one of a number of potential reasons – such as obtaining information or for punishment.

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Christmas Rights – Article 2 Right to Life

The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out all of the Rights and Freedoms contained within in Schedule 1, Part I of the Act. The first article and right, is the right to life. It states:

“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.

Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence;

(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;

(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection”.

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Christmas Rights – What is the Human Rights Act 1998?

The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) came into force in the UK on 2nd October 2000, ‘giving further effect’ to the the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the articles under it within the UK. Whether the effects of this Act have overall been positive or negative has been a hot-topic in politics for quite some time. Those praising the effect of the Act usually argue that it has offered us as people in Britain the opportunity to better protect our freedoms and rights against those who are supposed to care for such things. Those who feel it has a negative effect often argue it is unconstitutional and its scope is far too wide, allowing people to claim human rights that they shouldn’t be allowed to claim (missing the definition of a human right therefore). So, briefly, I’m going to take you through where it came from, what it represents and what its scope is…

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Christmas Rights

Good morning and happy Friday everyone! As I’m sure we all realise now Christmas is not very far away. In 14 days’ time, many of us will be a little worse off than we should be after drinking copious amounts of Bucks Fizz, regretting the 2 or 3 boxes of chocolate we’ve just emptied before sitting down for the biggest dinner of the year and in a festive haze over which new pair of socks to try on first – and I for one cannot wait. So, to celebrate the run up to the festivities (and hopefully make up for the lack of activity in the past month or so), I have decided to introduce you to a little project I have called ‘Christmas Rights’.

Although the title does sound a little bit like Scooby-Doo beginning to sing Coldplay’s recent festive hit ‘Christmas Lights’, this project is in fact an attempt to inform our readers about the rights we have in the UK, under the Human Rights Act 1998 (by the way, yes, the people around you are judging you for singing Coldplay’s song in Scooby-Doo’s accent under your breath).

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The impact of the new Welsh organ donation laws on personal autonomy.

Consent is a fundamental principle within UK law, and medical law in particular. Without a person’s full and informed consent doctors cannot do anything to a patient, no matter how minor or major a procedure may be. If doctors do anything without consent, they could potentially face criminal action for assault and battery, or civil charges for negligence. A major part of living in a capitalist society is the freedom to have personal choice, to say yes or no as you will, regardless of what others may think.

The 2001 Kennedy and Redfern Inquiry found that doctors at a number of hospitals were retaining children’s organs, either without asking parents at all, or only asking to retain ‘tissue’ which many outside of the medical profession would not think included whole organs. This was known as the Alder Hey scandal and led the Government to re-write organ donation laws to try and regain the trust of the public.

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An Introduction to our Guest Writer…

This week we are featuring another guest post from my friend and fellow law graduate Sam Urry, who has introduced himself below…

“My name is Sam Urry and I have recently graduated from the University of Winchester with first class honours in Law, with my studies having a particular focus towards Human Rights, Mental Health and Medical law as they are areas I find myself highly interested in.

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