I read Emily Thornberry’s blog for Huff Post for Human Rights Day with the usual sense of disappointment as she explained what the Human Rights Act has done for victims of crime. Because victims are naturally considered more worthy recipients of rights. Compared to the Tories’ sabre rattling over withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights completely, as well as repealing the Human Rights Act, it’s something I suppose but…. The blog feeds into the idea that there are deserving and undeserving people when it comes to human rights. This is the kind of attitude that makes me grind my teeth. Anyone whose rights are infringed becomes a victim in that moment. That’s the point: human rights conventions impose a moral standard which grants rights to all. The UN’s use of the word “universal” isn’t a coincidence for crying out loud. We protect everyone because if we don’t we’re accepting some people have a lower value. We have rights like those related to fair trial to ensure the innocent person and the guilty one both get equal treatment under the law because it’s the right thing to do. Because collectively we have agreed on a high standard of justice, even though individually we might have personal feelings about a case which make us question them a little (and for some people a lot).
Human rights are for all humanity. To me, protecting the rights of even a convicted murderer, terrorist, or rapist does protect me. It protects me simply by saying that everyone, absolutely everyone, is equal under the law and that the State is accountable for it’s actions. That doesn’t just protect my rights. It enables me to live with my society’s values. I look at a country like America with a certain amount of bafflement because I just don’t understand a society that continues to use the death penalty. Ours is a far from perfect society but a commitment to human rights gives people very real rights and remedies and makes us all better for it. Everyone is entitled to human rights such as life, dignity and justice. The fact that it’s not politically convenient to say so in the present climate doesn’t change that fact.