2011 will go down in history as the year pro-democracy rebellions erupted across the Middle East. The hunger for basic rights and freedoms across the world should remind us all of the ever present need to protect and defend rights at home.
Everyone has the right to protest and freedom of peaceful assembly, and it’s a right protected by Article 11 of the Human Rights Act. Closely linked to freedom of expression, the right to protest is as fundamental to democracy as the rule of law or a free press.
While it might not be as immediately obvious as the right to life or the right to a fair trial, for instance, the right to marry is a hugely important freedom and one protected by Article 12 of the Human Rights Act.
Last night leading figures from the worlds of law, media, civil society, politics and the arts came together at London’s Southbank Centre for Liberty’s annual Human Rights Awards. It proved to be a truly humbling and uplifting evening. Inspiring human rights heroes from all walks of life were honoured for their efforts at the ceremony, eloquently hosted with a gloss of comic sheen by the brilliant Marcus Brigstocke.
Article 5 of the Human Rights Act – the right to liberty – is one of the absolute cornerstones of the Rule of Law, which is fundamental to our democracy. This Article protects our right not to be arbitrarily deprived of our liberty.
The right to peaceful protest – crucial in any free democracy – is a particularly hot topic right now. With the recent student march and the ongoing Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstration, protest is well and truly in the news.
Of all the fundamental freedoms protected by the Human Rights Act, none attracts controversy quite like Article 8 – the right to respect for your private and family life. Barely a day passes without it hitting the headlines for apparently all the wrong reasons. Flicking through certain newspapers you would be forgiven for concluding that it exists only to shield foreign murderers and rapists from deportation.
Next week MPs will have their last chance to debate the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill before it moves to the House of Lords. It’s fitting that Monday is also Halloween, for there is much to be frightened of in these proposals.