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UK unveils bill to overrule European human rights decisons

The ECHR issued last minute injunctions to prevent a handful of asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda

The ECHR issued last minute injunctions to prevent a handful of asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda

The British government on Wednesday announced plans for a bill meaning British courts did not have to follow decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.

The move comes just over a week after the ECHR blocked ministers' efforts to send migrants seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda.

What is the UK government saying?

Announcing the plans for a new Bill of Rights, UK Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said Britain would not abandon the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, he said the bill would assert that the UK Supreme Court in London is the ultimate arbiter on human rights issues.

Raab said the legislation would "curb abuses of the system and inject a bit more common sense into human rights law."

He told lawmakers it was intended to curb "elastic interpretations'' of human rights that have developed through court rulings. He said these had developed without "meaningful democratic oversight'' by parliament.

The legislation, which would replace the current UK Human Rights Act, would need to be passed by parliament. It would mean that interim measures issued under the Strasbourg court's "Rule 39" are not binding on UK courts.

It would also raise the threshold for bringing certain human rights legal claims that the government describes as "trivial'' and "frivolous."

The bill would also reduce the ability of foreign nationals convicted of a crime in the UK from challenging deportation on the basis of their human rights.

What do rights groups say about the bill?

Rights groups say the legislation would take away some of the main tools the public has to hold the government and other public bodies to account, by raising the bar for claims.

They also claim that doing away with the UK Human Rights Act meant public bodies would feel less obligation to actively protect human rights.

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said Raab's Ministry of Justice had "taken a hatchet to the single most powerful rights tool this country has ever had."

Amnesty says the name Bill of Rights is misleading, and that it should instead be named the "Rights Removal Bill."

Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said the legislation represented "a lurch backwards for British justice."

"Authorities may begin to consider some rights violations as acceptable, because these could no longer be challenged under the Bill of Rights despite being against the law," she said.

How is the new bill linked to Brexit?

The UK government says the Bill of Rights as an assertion of sovereignty in the wake of Brexit.

Although Britain has departed the 27-member European Union it remains subject to decisions by the ECHR.

The court in Strasbourg is not part of the EU but an international tribunal supported by some 46 countries, including Britain.

The UK was among the first states to sign the human rights convention that the ECHR is tasked with upholding. One of the convention's key writers was British lawyer and Conservative politician David Maxwell Fyfe.

However, the convention has faced condemnation from some on the right of the British politics. Certain lawmakers Conservative party lawmakers have pushed for the UK to leave the court's jurisdiction altogether.

While Raab has so far resisted this, the move to override court rulings could put Britain on a collision course with the Council of Europe, which oversees the ECHR.

rc/rt (Reuters, AFP, AP)