1.5: Rights in Context


RIGHTS IN CONTEXT CIVIL LIBERTIES rights guaranteed by state. right to fair trials, to vote, etc. HUMAN RIGHTS rights including most civil liberties but are broader, and not necessarily guaranteed by government. can include rights to decent standard of living, to good healthcare, etc.  

  • The Magna Carta (great charter) of 1215 - guaranteed the freedom of the Church from royal interference and established that raising taxes arbitrarily was unacceptable. the right to trial by jury and expectation of justice.
  • James II was forced out of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 - lead to a partnership of monarch and Parliament and the limits of monarchal power were set out in the so-called Bill of Rights 1689. set out parliamentary rights ie regular, free elections, and freedom of speech in HoP.
  • COMMON LAW the end result of the long evolutionary process of establishing rights, legal precedents, and protections via landmark court cases.
    • rights based on common law could be superseded by statute law, ie law enacted in Parliament.
  • The ECHR - in 1953 the UK became an adherent to the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) produced by the Council of Europe (not the EU). meant that government actions had to comply with the ECHR and could only be challenged in the European Court of Justice, not in UK courts. It is unclear what will happen after Brexit:
    • many who oppose Brexit argue that the EU is now more significant in protecting people's rights than the UK. In 1973, the UK joined the EEC (European Economic Community) now the EU, and gave the European Court of Justice power to protect workers' rights.
    • the UK has a chequered history when it comes to signing European initiatives on rights. The Social Chapter (a protocol tacked onto the Treaty on European Union or Maastrict Treaty) set out broad social policy objectives on living and working conditions, giving the European Commission clearer powers to impose social legislation. It was signed by 11 EU leaders in 1989 and the Tory PM, John Major, was the only leader to opt out. Tony Blair's gov signed up to the Social Chapter in 1997.


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