ARTICLE: A Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom-Now * Skip over navigation
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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.

Summer, 1997

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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