ANOTHER VIEW: Making our own judgements

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The Independent Online
The decision by the European Court of Human Rights to condemn the British government over the shooting of three terrorists in Gibraltar raises much deeper questions than have been examined so far. Who controls our national security is in question, and whether our politicians are prepared to take responsibility for the decisions they are elected to take.

Yesterday's Independent argued that we should incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, supposedly to reduce the risk of such embarrassments. I disagree. We would lose nothing if we withdrew from the court and the convention; we would barely notice it. On the other hand, the effect of incorporation would be to create a dangerous climate where judges were making politically motivated judgments and politicians could withdraw from their own decisions.

National security is too important to hand over to international judges sitting in another country. We must retain the right to decide on how to tackle terrorists. Operational matters should not fall into the remit of an international court. We cannot have a situation where our military are deferring to a higher power than our elected leaders.

There is no question that the people shot in Gibraltar were terrorists, who had gone there to kill people. The citizens of Gibraltar have the right to expect to be protected from violence; our Government has the right to take all necessary steps to protect them on land under our jurisdiction. This convention and court have stood that on its head. It is not only terrorists who are being protected by this court. A previous ruling ordered the British government to pay pounds 14,000 to a convicted drug trafficker. Are these proper people for a Court of Human Rights to protect? It is a completely inverted, perverted system of human rights where the people who are protected are the terrorists who were armed to kill, or drug dealers, or criminals.

The Maastricht treaty is another example of this tendency to take away politicians' responsibilities. Its proposed common defence policy would mean that the British government would not have the right to say whether we were prepared to go to war or not. This marshmallow approach to politics is becoming endemic throughout Europe. We must not allow our elected politicians to become divorced from decision-making and from defending the decisions that are made.

We would barely notice if we withdrew from this court. The convention was meant to be a useful guideline when we were involved in drawing it up. Now it has been taken too far down the line. The right to have elected politicians who take responsibility for the decisions they make on matters such as fighting terrorism and national security is far more important than the rights of terrorists.

The writer is Conservative MP for Stafford.