Friday, September 09, 2005

EDRI-gram Number 3.18, 8 September 2005

EDRI-gram Number 3.18, 8 September 2005 is now available. Most notable is the report on UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke's passionate recent challenge to the validity of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Talking about the need "to balance important rights for individuals against the collective right for security", Clarke said: "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."

Clarke was specifically referring to the difficulty under the Convention of deporting people suspected of being involved with terrorism, but obviously thought it was acceptable to attack the general principle of protecting citizens against their governments by granting them inalienable minimum rights and freedoms.

A large majority of liberals, social democrats and greens in the European Parliament responded in outrage. The influential Liberal leader Graham Watson told Reuters: "Human rights are indivisible. Freedom and security are not alternatives, they go hand-in-hand ... Much as the public may dislike it, suspected terrorists have rights." Watson also quoted criticism by human rights lawyer Cherie Booth -- wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair -- of the country’s hardline anti-terror measures. "To ... invoke a form of summary justice would in the words of the lawyer Cherie Booth cheapen our right to call ourselves a civilised society," he said.

Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice addressed the Parliament in a much calmer way on the same topic. "We should never be tired to repeat that when working on security we have to keep a balance between law enforcement activities and the protection of other fundamental rights." Earlier, the spokesperson of Frattini told the Berliner Zeitung the Commission would finally launch its proposal for a directive on data retention on 21 September. But Frattini created more ambivalence about the timeline in his speech: "And we have to balance prosecution activities and privacy. We will consider this both in the proposal on data retention and in the presentation of the first comprehensive proposal on data protection in the third pillar scheduled for October."

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