Human Rights

Aude with her trophy and Willie Rennie

Dunfermline Liberal Democrats are delighted to say that our membership secretary and prospective candidate for West Fife and Coastal Villages, Aude Boubaker-Calder, has won the Scottish Liberal Democrat award for the best speech at Conference yesterday, the Russell Johnston Trophy.

Aude’s speech was presenting her amendment to the motion Fighting for our place in the UK and Europe. Aude’s amendment called for the UK Government to give an unconditional guarantee to EU citizens living in Britain the right to remain, and her amendment was passed with almost unanimous approval.

Aude has said,

I was suprised and honoured to have not only win this award but also proud that my fellow Party members joined me in my battle to a provide a voice to the voiceless EU expatriates in the Brexit debate. It feels wonderful and inspiring to have my name amongst presitigious figures such as former Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace and Alistair Carmichael MP. I now call upon the British Government to take heed of the recent House of Lords amendment backing the right to stay for EU expatriates like myself.

You can read Aude’s speech below:

For the ones who weren’t there at the Autumn Conference I will present myself briefly: My name is Aude, I am from Belgium. I have been in Scotland for 4 years and a member of the Lib Dems for around 2 years. Since the 23rd June, I am like most of you. I an concerned about the unity of our country, our economy, our position in the EU and in the world but not only. In addition, I am worried about my place amongst you like the other 3 million EU expatriates.

Brexit causes distress for everyone in the UK. British families are unable to predict what their future will look like: professional and economical.

Myself, I am unable to plan my future and the one of my husband with this Damoclean sword hanging above me.

Not only did I not get a voice during the Referendum, but now the Tory Government has the audacity to use me and my fellow EU Expats a bargain ship in their hard Brexit negotiations.

EU Expats are threatened to lose the jobs, the houses and the lives they have built up here Some of them have applied in a hurry for a highly complex 85 page form to get permanent residency.

Lib Dem research has shown 28%, including those with British spouses and children, have been rejected, sometimes for an unticked box, and were told to prepare to leave the country.

Some of us have to face blatant racism. Someone told me when campaigning this week in Dunfermline to go back to my country. What I answered with a big smile is that my country is the UK and I will fight for it!

We all know uncertainty is bad for any economy. See the chaos that Brexit has already caused and what the future ahead is for the UK and Scotland. Some businesses are run by EU citizens as well as doctors, nurses, teachers and academics. We are already facing a shortage in our public services such Education and the NHS, who is going to replace them?

Some claim that EU Expats are scroungers or even beggars. Well, let set things straight: I have never received a penny in benefits in the UK. In fact, Government research showed in 2013-2014 that recent EU expats paid £2.54 billion more in tax than they received in benefits and as a whole they paid £20 billion more in tax than they received in public services. British citizens, on the other hand, received more in public services than paid in taxes.So the question is: can you afford to lose us? I don’t think so.

Britain was one of the first countries to introduce a parliamentary democracy giving a voice to the people. I have the feeling that the pride of this advanced nation has been tarnished by the Tories definition of democracy: the tyranny of the majority over the minority. David Cameron shut the fundamental right to be represented for the those of us who were the most affected by the Referendum. Theresa May followed his steps. A few weeks ago, we saw Mrs May and President Trumps walking hand in hand in The White House just like their policies. He attacks the Mexicans and the Muslims, she attacks the most vulnerable and the EU expats. What a brilliant couple who want to build walls against diversity!

However, in all darkness there is a sparkle of light. Last week, the Lib Dems accomplished a major achievement in the House of Lords. We ensured that the amendment guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK passed. It made me proud to be a Lib Dem!

Today, I would like this Conference to send a powerful message to Teresa May: not in our name! I ask Conference to give a voice to the voiceless and to pass this motion as well as this amendment and let EU expats and their families know they have a friend in the Liberal Democrats and especially the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

You can watch part of her speech this week on BBC iPlayer.

James Calder

James Calder

When the Conservative Government decided not to include repealing the Human Rights Act in this year’s Queen’s Speech, I did feel a sense of some relief. For so many reasons, as I will outline here, the Human Rights Act offers the British people a number of absolutely essential protections and safeguards against the worst excesses that a Government can inflight. However, my sense of relief has been tempered by the fact that this seems to be a temporary victory – with the right wing tabloids screaming sensationalist headlines such as the Daily Mail saying it is opposed by ‘Left Wing Luvvies’. It seems to be only a matter of time until the Tories bring this up again, and we need to bring a stronger understanding of the positive effects this Act has on our society.

The origins of the Human Rights Act come from the 1950s, when Winston Churchill helped lead the way in setting up the European Convention of Human Rights. Britain was the first to sign this, and ironically it was a Conservative Government that helped lead the way in setting up this ground-breaking agreement. A few years later, the European Court of Human Rights was established.

It was only in 1998 that British judges and the Government had to take into account the decisions of the Court when it came to lawmaking. This came after the Human Rights Act, which ensured that the human rights of British residents would be guaranteed. The law ensured when legislation was made, it had to take into account the decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights, and judges had to take this into the account in legal cases. As such, in effect a constitutional guarantee of human rights was made in the UK.

However, opposition for the Human Rights Act has come in the form of an authoritarian, right wing nature.

One of the key charges that has been made is that the Human Rights Act places limits on national sovereignty. It is a sad state of affairs when national sovereignty is put as more important than our rights. The fact the Government has to take into account our Human Rights, which the ECHR for designed for, to me is something to be celebrated. If that means a small sacrifice in national sovereignty on what are ultimately matters which are not going to seriously impact on national security, I think that this can only be a good thing. We cannot simply think that the Government will always take a benign interest in safeguarding our rights; the ‘Snoopers’ charter can testify to that. Democracies can and will abuse human rights if there is no constraints, shown by the actions of the USA at Guantanamo Bay.

The other charge, that it helps foreign criminals, is a deeply sad excuse to try and distract from the bigger issues. While the Human Rights Act has been used in some cases by foreign criminals, this argument has only applied to small number of situations. The vast majority of foreign nationals who are ordered to be deported are deported. However, more fundamentally, are criminals not human as well? Should we not ensure, for instance, that those who face being tortured in their home country are safe? Churchill has stated that societies attitude towards its criminals is the measure of “the stored up strength of a nation.” These are wise words, and we should take this into account.

Fundamentally however, there are so many arguments in favour of the Act. Currently Britain leads the world when it comes to the promotion of Human Rights. There are so many countries where people do not have the same freedoms as we have, and it has taken centuries for us to develop these rights. The Human Rights Act is part of that process, and not only is repealing it a regressive and reactionary measure, but it sends the signal internationally to those countries that do not respect Human Rights that their actions are acceptable.

The Human Rights Act also gives our citizens the right to take their case to the British courts. Before this Act, in the situation where the British state was breaking our human rights, we would have to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This made things more difficult for the individual and the state. Now for the most part, our courts can handle the situation, and we can ensure our rights are respected without the same difficulties as before.

The Human Rights Act ensures that the British State has to act in a fair and just manner. In so many ways, our civil liberties are under attack at the moment. The Tories want to scrap this Act and bring in the ‘Snoopers’ Charter to spy on citizens. The SNP are bringing in equally Orwellian legislation in Scotland such as the Super ID database and their centralising agenda. Human Rights are a cherished part of our society, and we must continue to campaign hard to keep them safe.

James Calder

The Conservatives have set out plans to abolish the Human Rights Act and the Lib Dems are leading the campaign to stop them from doing this.

The Human Rights Act helps ensures our fundamental rights are protected and prevents the Government from disregarding these. Examples of protections offered include:

the right to life;
the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
the right to liberty and security of the person;
the right to a fair trial;
prohibition of punishment without law;
the right to respect for private and family life;
the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
the right to freedom of expression;
the right to freedom of assembly and association;
the right for men and women to marry and found a family;
the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;
the right to education;
the right to free elections;
and the prohibition of discrimination.

If you want to support the Lib Dem campaign to keep our human rights then please sign the petition here.