Commentary on Sir Noel Malcolm’s “Human Rights and Political Wrongs”

March 22, 2018

Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project has published a series of responses by eminent experts to Sir Noel Malcolm’s Human Rights and Political Wrongs, a book evaluating and critiquing European human rights law, which he argues undermines the rule of law and trespasses on democratic freedoms.

  • Baroness O’Neill, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge and former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, argues that better justifications are needed for human rights standards.
  • Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, former President of the Supreme Court, agrees with Sir Noel that much of the ECtHR’s case law is unsatisfactory but nonetheless disagrees with Sir Noel that the UK should pull out because of the possible international consequences.
  • John Finnis, Professor Emeritus of Law & Legal Philosophy at the University of Oxford, condemns the European Court of Human Rights’ “unrelenting assumption of legislative and policy-making power” and praises Sir Noel’s paper as an “unrivalled” checklist of the Court’s failings.
  • Professor John Tasioulas of King’s College London objects to parts of Sir Noel’s argument on the grounds that “human rights are not merely products of a democratic consensus”.
  • Professor Guglielmo Verdirame of King’s College London shares much of Sir Noel’s critical assessment of the ECHR’s ill-fit with our law and culture but thinks there may still be a case for remaining in the ECHR for now.

Sir Noel responds to the commentaries by defending the need to withdraw from the ECHR and exploring further how human rights relate to democracy and the responsibilities of elites. This is a high-level discussion of the nature of human rights and the constitutional questions about they ought best to be secured.  It will be of interest to anyone wanting to think further about what human rights are and how they bear on how we should be governed.

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