Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 9 June 2005

UK criticised over human rights

It is painful to read of one's country being criticised in this way, but the use of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) has seemed to me for some time to have veered away from the primary purpose of this legislation to one of repression and limitation of freedom, because of the capricious ways in which it is increasingly being applied, even if even I have occasionally welcomed some such uses.

UPDATE: (Thursday 9JUN05 16.25 BST) There's an article about this in today's Telegraph by its ever-excellent Legal Editor, Joshua Rosenberg here. I quote just a very few of Mr Rozenberg's comments about the report issued by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, as they express exactly how I feel about this whole matter, although the first sentence of the final quote should perhaps not be included in my approbation - I'm sure Joshua Rozenberg was merely expressing himself in his often laconically witty and pointed style:

"Nevertheless, it is disappointing to be reminded by the commissioner how far we have strayed from the ideal of human rights."

"What is so alarming about the commissioner's report is the revelation that so many relatively minor inroads on civil liberties have gone unremarked and unnoticed." (His following paragraph, somewhat lengthier, is also absolutely pertinent)

"For example, did you know that it is now an offence to enter Britain without a valid passport unless you can prove you are a European national or you have a reasonable excuse? Fair enough, you might say: asylum seekers routinely destroy their travel documents to make it harder for them to be deported. And it is a reasonable excuse to prove that you never had any documents or that you could not prevent their destruction. But how can you prove a negative? How can you, as an asylum seeker, prove that the agent who brought you here deliberately confiscated your documents? As Mr Gil-Robles says, a properly formulated offence would require prosecutors to prove that asylum seekers deliberately destroyed their documents rather than expecting them to prove the opposite."

"But it is harder to ignore the commissioner's concerns about our own young people. Anti-social behaviour is unquestionably a social blight, says Mr Gil-Robles, but he doubts that the "excesses" of Asbos or the high levels of juvenile detention are either fair or effective."

"Of course, he's only a foreigner. But he may be right."

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