22 March 2007

Liberty threatened

Are the traditional liberties enjoyed by English-speaking countries endangered in the motherland itself? Writing in Australia's The Age, this is what Melanie Phillips argues in Liberty fades as rights talk grows. Here's Phillips:

Real human rights — such as the equality of every human being and the intrinsic value of human life — are indeed universal and should be unarguable. The problem, however, comes with the "rights" that are enshrined in human rights law. These also claim to be universal and unarguable. But they are not. Indeed, the very act of codifying them makes them eminently contentious and divisive.

This is because almost every "right" in the convention is balanced by a rival "right". Judges have to decide between them. The way is therefore open for ideological, tendentious or prejudiced views to be set in judicial stone.

It has created a grasping "me too" culture that is as divisive as it is undemocratic. It has galvanised special interest groups to make demands, created a burgeoning industry of human rights lawyers and — despite acknowledging the ultimate supremacy of Parliament — effectively transferred much political power from Parliament to the courts. Instead of the rule of law, Britain now has rule by lawyers.

Though I disagree that "[h]uman rights law has nothing to do with true liberalism," I certainly concur with her belief that human rights has become "a religion for a godless age."

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