Column – Britain and Human Rights – Dilemma

It has long been known that the British were never able to come to terms with the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been in force since 1953. The imminent deportation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US once again raises the question of how much the UK feels bound by the European Convention on Human Rights Especially in light of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Strictly speaking, Mr. Assange’s extradition cannot only restrict the fundamental right to freedom of the media. Regardless, extradition to a country where Mr Assange would be at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment would in any case be a contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

British public opinion on the European Convention on Human Rights is mixed. Support for human rights can often be great. However, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights is often viewed with suspicion due to its supposed proximity to the European Union. In the run-up to Brexit, the then government led by Prime Minister David Cameron proposed replacing the European Convention on Human Rights with a separate British ” Bill of Rights”. The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights should only have the meaning of non-binding recommendations. The main argument that has fueled the British government’s moves in light of Brexit has long been the fear that the European Court of Human Rights would erode Britain’s parliamentary sovereignty.

However, devaluing the European Court of Human Rights as merely an advisory body would be incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Accordingly, the decisions of the Court of Justice are binding and must be implemented.

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The European Convention on Human Rights is not a legal act of the European Union

In addition, the European Convention on Human Rights is not a legal act of the European Union. Thus, Brexit does not automatically lead to withdrawal from the agreement. So the British would only be able to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights itself, but they put an end to such a move themselves as part of Brexit. During the Brexit negotiations, the EU and UK agreed in the Joint Political Declaration that the future relationship must “respect the UK’s continued commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights framework”. With this position, the framework for the Brexit deal was drawn up and adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights was affirmed.

This was confirmed again in the Brexit agreement. The Contracting Parties expressly reaffirmed their “respect for the international human rights treaties they have concluded”. The European Convention on Human Rights is not explicitly mentioned. However, there is no doubt that this is one of the mentioned international treaties.

The UK could therefore seek to limit the application of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights at the national level to narrow limits. However, the British could not simply withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights.

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