June 4, 2013
Conservative politicians are bringing the UK into disrepute with an attitude towards the EU’s human rights law which could spell a “political disaster.” This was the opinion expressed by the EU’s most senior judge, Dean Spielmann, who has spoken out against Tory threats to leave the European convention.
Certain senior Conservative MPs, including home secretary Theresa May, have been threatening to pull the UK out of the European convention on human rights. Party members have been indignant that the EU has requested they delay deporting terrorist suspects such as Abu Qatada in order to ensure the criminals will not be subjected to torture.
This is a view against which British judges have already spoken out, saying that measures to avoid the abuse of human rights for criminals are vital.
Dean Spielmann, new president of the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, has criticized the attitude of Conservative politicians on BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action programme, to be broadcast on Tuesday afternoon. He stated that leaving the European convention could result in having to leave the EU itself: “Pulling out of the convention would be plainly a political disaster.
“And I tell you why. Pulling out of the convention would mean that the UK would leave the Council of Europe because it is a pre-condition to being a member state of the Council of Europe to have accepted the European convention.
“And leaving the Council of Europe would probably also mean leaving the European Union because no member state of the European Union is not a member of the Council of Europe. So you see the political implications of such a move would be a total disaster, I think.”
Would the UK really leave the convention? It would be an extreme position to take, considering it comprises 47 member states, including non-EU nations such as Russia and Turkey. To go from being the UK’s current position on the EU to excluding itself from an apparently vital part of it would be drastic to say the least.
But even if the Tories making these threats are not serious about their claims, for Spielmann, they are still bringing themselves trouble. He warned that such an approach will be likely to damage Britain’s international image:
“Such an attitude causes real damage to the UK international reputation, because it undermines the whole system and it causes great damage to the credibility of the United Kingdom when it comes to promoting human rights in other parts of the world.”
The broadcast of Spielmann may well strike a degree of worry into British politicians, whom – regardless of their stance on the European Union – it would not suit to make an enemy of the new president of the EU. Spielmann’s words are a caution for Britons to think twice about the implications of their threats. And that means the implications for themselves as well as for others.Meredith Smith