LETTERS:Britain's need of European rights

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The Independent Online
From Mr Shaheen Chughtai Sir: In his defence of the British legal and political system vis-a-vis the European Convention on Human Rights ("Why we must bark back at this beast," 30 January), Bruce Anderson displays both a naive admiration for the history of human rights in Britain and an unsupported faith in our government's ability to strengthen and uphold them.

There is an embarrassing abundance of human rights abuses to choose from. Legal slavery and anti-Catholic legislation until early last century, the absence of equal voting rights for women until 1928 and the lack of any law against racial discrimination until 1965 are just a few outrages that belie Mr Anderson's assertion: "We had virtually invented human rights ... and had practised them for centuries." Is there some confusion, perhaps, between the terms "human" and "rich white male Protestant" ?

The advancement of human rights has been served by the enforcement of acknowledged rights and the extension of their scope and application. To suggest that Britain alone will always instruct the world in both upholding and pioneering human rights is unsupported chauvinistic conjecture.

We, like anyone else, need the ECHR because history shows us that individuals everywhere have had their rights abused and denied. It is they, not the rights of authorities, that need protection.

Yours faithfully, SHAHEEN CHUGHTAI London, NW4

30 January