Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coming up again

The subject of prisoners' voting rights is about to come up again. Readers of this blog will recall that this was voted out by the House of Commons some time ago. Now the European Court of Human Rights is about to hear a fresh legal challenge on the subject, mounted by George McGeoch, 40, who is serving a life sentence for murder. (I should have thought the solution is obvious: give the man his voting rights as long as his victim can have them as well.)

Officials in Strasbourg are frustrated by the UK letting the issue fester. Nils Mui┼żnieks, the new human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe, told the Guardian: "A blanket and indiscriminate ban is not in line with the European convention on human rights. The UK government seems to have painted itself into a corner through the last few years.

"The ruling does not require states to give all prisoners voting rights but [depriving prisoners of the vote] has to be linked to the nature of their crime."

Britain has repeatedly argued for what is called a '"margin of appreciation", allowing states some leeway in interpreting ECHR judgments. "Now they have it and the deadline to make the changes ends in November," Muiznieks said. "If they don't it will weaken the whole system and set a very bad example for other states.

"In general the UK has been a good citizen within the human rights system. It would be a huge shame and weaken the UK's influence if they delayed [the decision]."
Goodness me, one wouldn't want that, would one. I mean where would we be if the UK's influence were weakened in the Council of Europe or, for that matter in any tranzi organization?

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