Charles Clarke: 'Our human rights regime is out of balance'

From a speech given to the European Parliament by the Home Secretary, on the British EU presidency's priorities in the field of justice and home affairs
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The Independent Online

We believe that it is necessary to look very carefully at the way in which the jurisprudence around application of the European Convention on Human Rights is developing. This convention, established over 50 years ago in a quite different international climate, has led to great advances in human rights across the continent. But I believe that in developing these human rights it really is necessary to balance very important rights for individuals against the collective right for security against those who attack us through terrorist violence.

Our strengthening of human rights needs to acknowledge that the right to be protected from torture and ill-treatment must be considered side by side with the right to be protected from the death and destruction caused by indiscriminate terrorism, sometimes caused, instigated or fomented by nationals from countries outside the EU. This is a difficult balance to get right, and it requires us all as politicians to ask where our citizens - who elected all of us here - would expect us to draw the line.

I believe that they expect from us not only the protection of individual rights but also the protection of democratic values such as safety and security under the law. The view of my government is that this balance is not right for the circumstances which we now face - circumstances very different from those faced by the founding fathers of the European Convention on Human Rights - and that it needs to be closely examined in that context.

The legislative regime which defends human rights must be used to defend the rights of all our citizens in a balanced and considered way. The right to safety and security is a fundamental concern for our citizens. Here we can show that Europe can and does deliver real benefits.

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