As the national debate gathers pace, we ought to dispel two popular myths about human rights. First, they do not exist in any preordained sense; secondly, they are not imposed upon us by others.
Human rights are an expression of our will to protect each other from abuse, enshrined in our law after the atrocities of World War II. Implicit in the concept is the recognition of a simple fact: each of us is only human, capable of committing acts of good and bad in equal measure. Accordingly, we have determined that no individual or group should be entrusted with unchecked authority over any other.
The Human Rights Act (HRA) was enacted to this end. By incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) into domestic law, the Act essentially provides that legislators and other public authorities must treat each of us with equal respect, failing which we may seek legal recourse through our UK court system.
Unsurprisingly, the HRA tends to be unpopular with those who govern us. By making them accountable, it limits their freedom to act as they wish. But, of course, this was always the intention. Furthermore, it proved effective: the same party we have to thank for the HRA entertained scrapping it a decade or so later.
The Conservative proposal to replace the HRA with a “British Bill of Rights” should be treated with cynicism. Now unfettered by his former coalition partners, the Prime Minister’s motivation is purportedly to entrench “core values” and responsibilities in British law. Yet recent history suggests the reverse is true: in its last term, the government severely reduced legal aid, attacked judicial review and extended the use of ‘secret courts’.
Top 20 misconceptions that people believe are true
Top 20 misconceptions that people believe are true
1. Most people believe coffee is made from beans, but experts say they are actually made from seeds called a bean.
2. It is commonly assumed that chameleons change colour to fit in with their surroundings. However, they actually change colour depending on their mood, temperature and their exposure to light.
3/20 Mount Everest
3. Mount Everest is often named as the tallest mountain on earth. But while the summit of Mount Everest is higher above sea level than the summit of any other mountain, but Mauna Kea is the tallest when measured from base to summit.
4/20 Great Wall of China
4. People say you can see the Great Wall of China from space. But Apollo astronauts confirmed that you can’t see the Great Wall of China from the Moon. In fact, all you can see from the Moon is the white and blue marble of our home planet.
5/20 Dog years
5. One human year is equivalent to seven dog years it is thought. Actually it depends on the size and breed of the dog.
6/20 Heat loss
6. It's often said that you lose your body heat fastest through your head. This is a myth, experts say humans would be just as cold if they went without a hat as if they went without trousers.
7. We were all taught the Earth revolves around the Sun. Technically, what is going on is that the Earth, Sun and all the planets are orbiting around the centre of mass of the solar system.
8/20 Taste sensations
8. Different parts of your tongue detects different tastes, right? Wrong. This was scientifically disproved by later research; all taste sensations come from all regions of the tongue, although different parts are more sensitive to certain tastes.
9. Peanuts are thought to be a type of nut, many think the clue's in the name. But actually peanuts, along with beans and peas, belong to the single plant family, Leguminosae.
10/20 Children and sweets
10. Parents often claim giving children sugar makes them hyper. However, this is not the case, most research has concluded that sugar does not cause hyperactivity.
11/20 Human senses
11. Humans have five senses most people assume. It turns out, there are at least nine senses and most researchers think there are more like twenty-one or so.
12/20 Fortune cookies
12. Fortune cookies are coomonly believed to be a Chinese tradition. They were in fact invented by the Americans.
13. When eating sushi most think the word means ‘raw fish’. But sushi actually translates as sour-tasting.
14/20 Viking horned helmets
14. Vikings are often depicted as wearing horned helmets. Yet there is no evidence to suggest Vikings ever wore horned helmets.
15/20 The forbidden fruit
15. The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is always thought of as an apple. The bible never mentions the forbidden fruit was an apple though.
16/20 Vitamin C
16. Many say Vitamin C is an effective treatment for a cold. But most experts have stated there is little or no evidence that vitamin C can help treatment of a cold.
17. It will disappoint romantics but penguins don't mate for life. Penguins are mostly monogamous, however there are some species like the Emperor Penguin which is serially monogamous, they mate with one couple for the whole season but the next year they will probably mate with another penguin as the urgent need for breeding will make them avoid waiting for the same couple the following year.
18. It is a commonly held view that caffeine dehydrates. While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect they don't appear to increase the risk of dehydration.
19/20 Rats in London
19. It is often said that in London, you are merely six feet away from a rat. But this is just a rough estimate as rodents are not evenly spread apart.
20/20 Dark side of the moon
20. Is there a dark side of the moon. Apparently not. As the Moon is constantly rotating on its own axis, there is no area of the planetoid which is in permanent darkness.
As anticipated, the primary victims of this assault on access to justice have been the impecunious, the unpopular and the marginalised. And such is the power parliament already wields, that the measures have proved exceptionally difficult to challenge, even with the HRA. How much harder will it be without it?
As one eminent judge recently put it: “They are scrapping the Act, just when we need it the most.” One cannot but help admire the audacity of our leader’s spurious proposal. Yet, ultimately, scrapping the HRA will benefit no one. Never mind ‘Britishness’ - in neglecting those in need, we diminish our humanity.Reuse content