The Human Rights Act of 1998 also referred to as the HRA contains a list of eighteen different rights that all UK citizens are entitled to and that their government should abide by and uphold in their courts of law. This act was passed to give more focus to the rights already spelled out in European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR is an international treaty designed to protect the rights of all Europeans. The rights guaranteed under the act are as follows:
1. The Right to Life
2. Freedom From Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
3. The Right to Liberty and Security
4. Freedom from Slavery and Forced Labor
5. Right to a Fair Trial
6. No Punishment Without Law
7. Right to respect for private and family life
8. Freedom of Thought, Belief, and Religion
9. Freedom of Expression
10. Freedom of Assembly and Association
11. Right to Marry
12. Protections from Discrimination
13. Protection of Property
14. Right to Education
15. Right to Participate in Free Elections
16. Restrictions on political activity of aliens
17. Prohibition of abuse of rights
18. Limitation on use of restrictions on rights
Most of these rights are pretty self- explanatory. However, a few may not be clear to someone without a legal back ground.
The Right to Life section might sound like the pro life, pro choice debate that is going on strongly in America but it really extends to the death penalty. Basically, according to the HRA no one is permitted to take another person’s life, even the government is not allowed to take another person’s life. In essence, this act prohibits the death penalty for UK citizens.
The No Punishment Without Law section ensures that a person can not be convicted of an act that was not against the law at the time. For example, if a person was gambling in 2005 and a law was enacted in 2007 that gambling was illegal, the individual could not be prosecuted for gambling in 2005 because the act was not against the law at that time.
The Protections from Discrimination Section basically guarantees that all citizens get to enjoy the rights that are set out in the HRA of 1998 equally. No one because of race, religion etc is prohibited from enjoying these rights.
The Right to respect for private and family life section provides that individuals have a right to a private or personal life. The government can not pry into a citizens private or family life unless they have some reason to believe the individual is breaking a law or threatening the peace of society in some way shape or form.
The Freedom of Expression Section applies to voicing ones opinions and not being persecuted for doing so. Under this section, citizens can disagree with what the government is doing and openly speak, write, blog etc about this and no one can stop them.
The Human Rights Act of 1998 brought the precepts of the European Convention of Human Rights to the forefront of United Kingdom law. These eighteen rights paint a picture of how free nations should treat their people. It is imperative that all citizens be educated about their rights. Most of the eighteen rights are self- explanatory from thier title. A few of the rights require a short explainations. After reading this summary of what is found in the HRA of 1998, hopefully the act and the rights have become much more clearly defined.