European Court of Human Rights – in or out?

I woke this morning to the news that the Conservative Party is drawing up legislation to remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. The implication is that the UK Parliament should remain sovereign, and shouldn’t be answerable to any other body. This was pored over and dissected by various pundits on the radio.

What struck me, however, was a subsequent story about the On The Runs scheme, the letters given to various “terrorists” in Northern Ireland which have been interpreted as pardons by the UK courts. Here the UK Government seems to have clearly “stuffed up” – a point made formally by Lady Justice Hallett in her announcement later on in the day.

So when government does wrong, where is the citizen supposed to go? After all, our government is rushing through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill in a little under a week – something a committee of the House of Lords has publicly questioned on the basis that it doesn’t seem to be a real emergency nor is it just re-stating what the previous law was.

If government steam-rollers parliament into quickly passing legislation to make what has been illegal to be legal once more, then an outside agency is needed to hold government to account.

But news that came through this lunchtime was also disappointing. While not quite forcing married trans people to divorce, as the headlines indicate, their ruling that it remains acceptable for a trans person to decide between gender recognition and continuing a legal marriage is disappointing to say the least. The judgement appears to be kow-towing to the opinion that we simply cannot have marriages involving trans people continuing post gender recognition. The legal ruling continues objecting states to continue the pretence that one of these two people isn’t actually who they say they are despite appearances.

Indeed, the wording of the judgement appears to place the right to family life and the right to privacy (which is what gender recognition tends to be based on) in opposition. Really? This seems quite bizarre. Uniquely trans people cannot claim both rights, we must choose one or the other. They should not be opposing rights, they are parallel rights. No other group of people is forced to choose between these rights. It should be (and is) unacceptable that trans people and their spouses are uniquely singled out in this way.

Satisfying a legal system’s objections on a systemic basis once again denies the rights of some human beings to be treated as equals, as human beings. The message is clear once again – trans people are second class citizens across Europe, with rights to be granted when it’s convenient to do so.


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