Creating a fairer Britain
The Review takes each article of the Convention and assesses whether government has met its negative obligations not to breach a Convention right, and its positive obligations to create laws, institutional structures and processes which enable people to enjoy their Convention rights and freedoms.
Each chapter focuses on institutional settings or activities where the evidence suggests human rights are not strongly protected. We selected these issues following consultation with voluntary sector organisations, human rights experts and academics. We focused on issues which we considered were sufficiently grave because the law, or the way an institution or process worked, affected the rights of everyone, or had an impact on the rights of a particular group of people.
The review does not assess government performance against every Convention right, as in some cases the Commission believes that there are no current human rights concerns. The Commission did not find sufficient evidence to warrant concern about freedom from punishment without law (Article 7); right to marry (Article 12); or right to an effective remedy (Article 13).
Article 2 is one of the most fundamental provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights. With very limited exceptions, it cannot be derogated from. The state must never arbitrarily take someone’s life and must also safeguard
the lives of those in its care. In addition, the state must carry out an effective investigation when an individual dies following the state’s failure to protect the right to life, or the use of force by government officials.
The idea that the right to life is a natural right has a history going back to the early Middle Ages. In Britain, the right to life is protected by a well-functioning criminal justice system. There are a number of processes and organisations
which investigate deaths involving state agents, including the police, the inquest system, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
Article 3 is an absolute right prohibiting torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The state must not itself engage in torture, or in inhuman or degrading treatment. It is also obliged to prevent such treatment happening, and to carry out an investigation into allegations that it has. The state must comply with its obligations within its territory and, in exceptional
circumstances, in different countries where it exercises effective jurisdiction.
The prohibition on torture has been part of the British common law framework since the 18th century. Today the legal framework around torture is considerably more sophisticated. It is prohibited both by civil law and by several Acts of Parliament. The UK has also ratified several international conventions prohibiting torture and ill-treatment. This framework is supported by an institutional structure of regulators, including the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMI Prisons).
Article 4 prohibits slavery or servitude and forced or compulsory labour. This includes forced and bonded labour, child servitude and trafficking of human beings. Article 4 is an absolute right, which imposes an obligation on the state to refrain from subjecting individuals to slavery, servitude or forced labour and to penalise and prosecute any such acts. This means that the state must have a legislative and administrative framework capable of enforcing this right. It must also investigate allegations of slavery, trafficking or forced labour.
The UK has a new and relatively strong legal framework to prevent slavery and forced labour in all their forms. There are also several agencies to monitor, investigate and prosecute cases. The issues discussed in this chapter are largely about the effectiveness of these mechanisms.
Article 5 provides that everyone has the right to liberty and security. The right set out by Article 5(1) is limited, which means there are some circumstances set out in the Article and in domestic law, in which deprivation of liberty is lawful. Any such deprivation of liberty must be necessary and proportionate and should not continue for longer than necessary. It must also be in accordance with the relevant provisions of Article 5(2) to 5(5).
Protection from arbitrary detention has been part of Britain’s common law framework since the 13th century. Today, the circumstances in which arrest and/or detention are permitted are set out in a number of Acts of Parliament and associated Codes of Practice. The UK has also ratified a number of international treaties supporting the right to liberty and security. The legality of any deprivation of liberty may be reviewed and challenged through the domestic courts. Britain has also ratified a number of international treaties supporting the right to liberty and security.