The ‘Bill of Rights’ project to give British courts the upper hand over Strasbourg decisions has been given a boost after the blocking of the sending of asylum seekers to Rwanda, to the chagrin of the conservatives in power.

Boris Johnson had made it a campaign promise during the 2019 general election: on Wednesday June 22, his British justice minister, Dominic Raab, presented a bill, the Bill of Rights, supposed to replace the Human Rights Act of 1998 and giving the UK Supreme Court primacy in interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights over the European Court of Human Rights. This project also provides that the British courts (Royal Courts and Courts of Appeal) will no longer have to diligently apply the interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights, these decisions taken urgently, often to stop extradition or the deportation of asylum seekers or accused persons.

In preparation for several months, the Bill of Rights took a boost and an even more political turn after the Strasbourg court issued provisional measures blocking, on June 14, the sending to Rwanda – from the United United – of asylum seekers who had not had their plane ticket canceled by the British courts. The charter specially chartered by the Johnson government remained grounded, sparking the fury of Tory lawmakers and casting serious doubt on Downing Street’s ability to implement its migration policy.

Donwing Street Drift

Carried away by anger, Tory MPs such as Jonathan Gullis even demanded the outright withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty that came into force in 1953, of which Winston Churchill was nevertheless one of the instigators and the country one of the first signatories… before backpedaling: this convention is one of the legal bases of the 1998 Good Friday peace treaty which ended thirty years of civil war in Northern Ireland. The European Convention on Human Rights remains “compatible” and even “integrated” into the Bill of Rights project, assured Dominic Raab from the House of Commons, in the face of particularly critical opposition – Labor and Scottish independence from the SNP. “This project will strengthen the rights of victims,” added the minister.

This is not the opinion of a majority of legal experts and representatives of NGOs, denouncing a worrying drift by Downing Street. “This text will encourage populist governments in Eastern Europe” to take their liberties with the European Convention on Human Rights, regretted SNP MP Joanna Cherry. In the columns of the Guardian, Sacha Deshmukh, head of the British branch of Amnesty International, points out that after the charter for Rwanda was blocked, “we heard the same type of attacks against the Court Strasbourg European Union that we could have heard from the mouths of Viktor Orban or Vladimir Poutine”. The Strasbourg Court is “an invaluable last resort” for many people, adds the official, “it is to it that the lawyers of British soldiers conscripted by the Ukrainian army and sentenced to death could, for example, turn the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk”.