Thursday, 29 March 2012

Could Brighton go down in history as the city where universal human rights law began to be abandoned?

Brighton could just be about to add its name to a new international human rights treaty, forever earning it's place in history. Again. (It's already made the history books as the first place in England to elect a Green Party MP and a Green Party council!)

To mark the UK's chairmanship of the Council of Europe - the international body (not related to the EU by the way) which upholds the European Convention on Human Rights - leaders of its 47  member states will come to our seaside city next month for a ground-breaking conference set to revise the treaty.

Trouble is, if David Cameron and Nick Clegg get their way, it'll be one of the first times in history a human rights treaty has been watered down rather than beefed up.

And Brighton's place in history could be as the city where, nearly 70 years after world leaders adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the idea that the international community should, for example, protect the right of all people not to be tortured by their Governments, began to be abandoned.

The Government wants to use the Brighton conference to increase the power of national courts to sort out human rights matters - and reduce the power of international bodies like the International Criminal Court.

It wants to move away from the idea that some human rights are universal, to be protected by all of us, and back to the pre-1939 idea that states can - and should - look after the rights of their own citizens.

If that happens, any 'Brighton Declaration' will be loved not just by this Government, and nationalists everywhere, but also by dictators, pariah stets and enemies of universal human rights everywhere.

Hardly a reputation that answers the aspirations of the people of this city - one that has always revelled in its liberalism and international solidarity!

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