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Why the European Convention on Human Rights matters

EHRAC Director Professor Philip Leach says Conservatives' conference attack on the ECtHR puts people's rights at risk across Europe

ECtHRAt the 2014 Conservative Party conference, David Cameron vowed to "sort out" the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) should his party win the 2015 general election.

In an impassioned speech, he claimed that since the European Convention on Human Rights was established in the aftermath of World War Two, "interpretations of the charter have led to a whole lot of things that are frankly wrong" including "the suggestion that you've got to apply the human rights convention even on the battlefields of Helmand".

Stating that the UK was a country that "time and again has stood up for human rights" and that "we do not require instruction … from judges in Strasbourg" he went on to promise that, with a Conservative government after the next election, the UK will have a "new British Bill of Rights".

The following day, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling outlined the Conservatives' "common sense" proposals, which would make the British Courts supreme and allow MPs to veto rulings by the ECtHR.

"We owe it to the victims of abuse to ensure that we maintain a strong and independent human rights court for the whole of Europe" - Middlesex Professor of Human Rights Law Philip Leach

Alongside Labour, the Liberal Democrats and organisations including Amnesty UK, the Conservatives' war on the ECtHR has been condemned by academics from Middlesex University's School of Law – a centre for renowned human rights work – including Philip Leach, Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre.

Professor Leach fears that the Conservatives' lack of recognition for the important work undertaken by the ECtHR is setting a bad example for other countries to follow.

"There is an obvious danger that the Conservatives' hostility to the convention will be picked up and used by other European governments to justify their non-compliance with, or even outright rejection of, the European Court's decisions," he explained.

"The result will be that victims of human rights violations in Europe will suffer for longer, and they may be denied justice and redress.

"We owe it to the subjects of secret rendition, to the victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, to people languishing in inhuman prisons, and many others, to ensure that we maintain a strong and independent human rights court for the whole of Europe."

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