Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why we need an enforceable BORA

National MP Paul Quinn, with the full support of his party, is currently trying to ban prisoners from voting via his Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill. Meanwhile, over in the UK, it looks like they're going to be forced to repeal such a ban. Five years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK's blanket ban on prisoners voting violated the right to vote affirmed in the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling is binding on the UK government, and if not implemented soon will result in sanctions, including suspension from the Council of Europe and European Union. As a result, the UK government will be forced to change its law, most likely to one mirroring the present NZ law, and sooner rather than later.

This is the difference an enforceable human rights instrument makes: it stops the government from wantonly and egregiously violating human rights. And what this bill shows is that we need one here. As Andrew Geddis pointed out, if Parliament passes this bill it will forfeit all legitimacy as our supreme lawmaker. It will have shown clearly that it cannot be trusted to uphold and protect our fundamental rights, and that it will piss all over them whenever it fells it can grub votes by doing so. It will have shown that we need judicial checks on Parliamentary power. And the way to do that is by elevating the BORA to supreme law, and allowing the courts to strike down such abuses.