Copyright (c) 1997 University of Texas at Austin School of Law Publications, Inc.
Texas International Law Journal
ARTICLE: A Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom-Now *
* For a full account of the history of the Bill of Rights debate in Britain, see Michael Zander, A Bill of Rights? 1-39 (4th ed. 1997). The book examines in detail the many arguments that have been raised regarding the pros and cons of a Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom. Since the mid-1970s, the writer has been an active member of the campaign to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into U.K. law.
32 Tex. Int'l L.J. 441
Michael Zander, Q.C. **
The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the world to have neither a written constitution nor a Bill of Rights. For the past twenty years or so, this lack of a constitution has been a topic of legal-political debate. The signs are that in 1997 the debate will be resolved, and the United Kingdom will soon march to a fundamentally new tune.
The debate has been over whether the United Kingdom should or should not incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic law. 1 The ECHR is an international instrument adhered to in 1997 by more than thirty countries. It guarantees rights traditionally the subject of Bills of Rights - the right to life; freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to liberty and security of person; the right to a fair and public hearing in both civil and criminal cases; protection from retrospective laws; the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and the like.
The United Kingdom ratified the Convention in 1951, 2 and since 1965, anyone wishing to complain about an alleged breach of the Convention by the U.K. Government or any of its emanations has had the right to take such a complaint to the Strasbourg system established by the Convention. 3
The Strasbourg system has proved to be highly successful. The European Court of Human Rights has issued some seven hundred decisions, ...
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