Finer points of human rights

People in the Isle of Man have a whole raft of rights they don’t know about according to a Manx advocate with a special interest in human rights.

Paul Beckett who is currently studying for a masters degree in the subject was speaking to an audience of deaf, blind or partially sighted people at the Manx Blind Welfare Society recently.

Some provisions in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights were formally enacted in the Human Rights Act of 2012 and can therefore be relied on in the courts.

But in addition to this, there are provisions, some contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (ICESCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC), which can also be relied on in court despite not being incorporated into an act of Tynwald.

This is not generally known by the Manx public nor is it something with which many advocates or even the judiciary are familiar, Mr Beckett said.

‘I am an advocate and as such I do not make political statements. The failure to incorproate the provisions is simply an oversight, it’s not malicious,’ he said.

However, he said anyone wanting to challenge an official decision using the judicial review process could still rely on the provisions to support their application.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2006 was never brought into force but there is a range of rights which already apply under these conventions and covenants.

‘These rights are not aspirational: they apply under Isle of Man law by virtue of the four instruments having been ratified on behalf of, or by, the Isle of Man,’ he told the audience.

The Disability Discrimination Act is now to be repealed and replaced with new legislation based on the Equality Act 2010 from the UK. The new act should be in place by 2016.

But in the meantime the various conventions and covenants do offer rights beyond what is contained in existing acts.

For example, he told the audience articles five and six of the ECHR give people a right to be told why they are being arrested and have any charge filed against them explained. In the case of a deaf person, this could mean that a sign language interpreter needs to be engaged.

Rights which might be enforceable under the ICCPR include being equal before the courts, having access to public services and being free from discrimination. Similarly he said the ICESCR deals with equal rights in education and work and the UNCRC deals with freeedom of expression and freedom from discrimmination.

The island’s deaf champion Gareth Foulkes told the audience a report, called A Life Less Equal, on the experience of deaf people in the Isle of Man was completed in 2011. The report said: ‘In many areas deaf people in the isle of Man have a much worse quality of life than hearing people.’



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