Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in national and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights applicable to all human being regardless of their nationality, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They require empathy and the rule of law and impose an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others. They should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances, and require freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution.
In the UK, Magna Carta, issued in 1215, explicitly protected certain rights of the King’s subjects and restricted the power of the King. It implicitly supported what became the writ of habeas corpus, safeguarding individual freedom against unlawful imprisonment with right to appeal.
Many of the basic ideas that animated the human rights movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of The Holocaust, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953. All Council of Europe member states are party to the Convention and new members are expected to ratify the convention at the earliest opportunity. The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights.
The Human Rights Act 1998 (c 42) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998, and mostly came into force on 2 October 2000. Its aim was to incorporate into UK law the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Act makes a remedy for breach of a Convention right available in UK courts, without the need to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
In particular, the Act makes it unlawful for any public body to act in a way which is incompatible with the Convention, unless the wording of any other primary legislation provides no other choice. It also requires the judiciary (including tribunals) to take account of any decisions, judgment or opinion of the European Court of Human Rights, and to interpret legislation, as far as possible, in a way which is compatible with Convention rights. However, if it is not possible to interpret an Act of Parliament so as to make it compatible with the Convention, the judges are not allowed to override it. All they can do is issue a declaration of incompatibility. This declaration does not affect the validity of the Act of Parliament: in that way, the Human Rights Act seeks to maintain the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty. However, judges may strike down secondary legislation. Under the Act, individuals retain the right to sue in the Strasbourg court.
One Legal have a very strong Human Rights perspective and are known for representing highly vulnerable clients, especially those who have, or have had, mental health problems. Additionally, we can advise on European issues and have extensive training in the Human Rights Act.
As Human Rights is a pervasive topic, points arise in all aspects of the law which we practise, be it criminal defence, extradition, warrant cases, prison or employment law.
We have brought a number of successful significant Human Rights Act challenges.