For immediate release – Thursday 28 September 2023
“European Convention important to minorities” Jewish human rights charity tells Conservative chairman
As Conservatives gather for their annual conference in Manchester this weekend, a Jewish human rights charity has written to party chairman Greg Hands MP to remind him of the history and importance of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The letter comes after several senior Conservatives recently suggested that the UK might withdraw from the Convention.
Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director of René Cassin warns Mr. Hands that withdrawal would threaten the peace in Northern Ireland, destabilise the union with Scotland, and see the UK isolated in Europe with only Russia and Belarus for company.
She reminds him that the Convention was written by a Conservative British lawyer and was supported by Winston Churchill.
She points out that the Convention was key to rebuilding a peaceful and stable Europe after the atrocities of the Second World War.
And, crucially, she writes that it is minorities who have most to lose should the UK withdraw from the Convention.
After sending the letter to Greg Hands, Mia Hasenson-Gross said:
“The European Convention on Human Rights has underpinned individual liberties in the UK for 70 years. It is particularly important in protecting minority communities. Those calling for the UK to withdraw from the Convention are reckless and irresponsible. Even if they are careless about individual liberties, dismissive of minority rights, and ignorant of the history behind the Convention, they should think twice about advocating a policy that could threaten peace in Northern Ireland, break up the UK, and leave Britain in a ‘club’ with Russia and Belarus”.
Text of letter from René Cassin’s Mia Hasenson-Gross to Conservative Chairman, Greg Hands MP:
28 September 2023
The Rt Hon Greg Hands MP
4 Matthew Parker Street
Dear Mr Hands
Conservatives should support the European Convention on Human Rights
It has been alarming to hear members of the government and other Conservatives recently calling for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Have they forgotten their history?
The Convention gave legal weight to the aspirations expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was drawn up by the United Nations as a response to the horrors of the Holocaust.
It was the cornerstone of the foundations on which a stable and peaceful Europe was rebuilt from the rubble of a war-torn continent.
It was drafted by the British lawyer, David Maxwell-Fyfe, who went on to become a Conservative Home Secretary.
It was supported by Winston Churchill.
Withdrawal would threaten outcomes that no Conservative should welcome: the potential unravelling of the Union, as the Convention is embedded in current devolution arrangements; greater reluctance from our European neighbours to cooperate on trade and security issues; and the UK joining Russia and Belarus as the only European countries outside the Convention.
Human rights protect the individual’s freedoms from interference by the state. The stability and safety they provide benefit everyone. But they are particularly important to minorities, who have most to fear from the excesses of populist rhetoric and what Lord Hailsham (another Conservative) famously termed ‘elective dictatorship’.
So, on the eve of your party conference, I urge you to ensure that all your members are aware of the Convention’s history, its value, and the damage that would be caused by a UK withdrawal.
René Cassin – ‘the Jewish voice for human rights’
Notes for editors:
- See, for example, “No 10 backs threat to leave human rights convention” The Times, 28 September 2023, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/suella-braverman-britain-european-convention-on-human-rights-t372jf303
“Rishi Sunak faces Tory party split over withdrawal from ECHR”, Daily Telegraph 2 September 2023 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2023/09/02/rishi-sunak-faces-tory-party-split-withdrawal-echr/
- “David Maxwell Fyfe – The British Conservative Behind The European Convention On Human Rights” https://eachother.org.uk/david-maxwell-fyfe/
- “In the centre of our movement stands the idea of a Charter of Human Rights, guarded by freedom and sustained by law“ – Winston Churchill at the Congress of Europe in The Hague (7 May 1948) – p3 para1 – https://www.cvce.eu/content/publication/1999/1/1/58118da1-af22-48c0-bc88-93cda974f42c/publishable_en.pdf#:~:text=Caption%3A%20On%207%20May%201948%2C%20at%20the%20opening,Union%20represents%20for%20the%20future%20of%20European%20unification.