Jan 31, 2010

Not All Humans Have Human Rights

According to Nadine Dorries, when someone breaks into a house they leave their human rights at the door. This sounds very worryingly like Dorries is arguing that burglars are "fair game", but in case you think I am misrepresenting her you can read her thoughts in full:
  1. NadineDorriesMP @SohoPolitico When you break into someones house to do harm, you leave every right you have at the door. Different burglars do different
  2. NadineDorriesMP things, some steal, some use violence. Different householders deal with a threat in different ways. The easy way not to get into a situatio
  3. NadineDorriesMP n is, dont break into someone elses house!

While I agree that the best way to avoid a situation is not to break into a property that doesn't belong to you, I disagree with Dorries' stance that burglars "leave every right [they] have at the door."

Those human rights that burglars apparently "leave at the door" include the right not to be tortured or to be subjected to to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This is made clear in
The United Nations International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights. See Article 7 here for the relevant statement.

Of course, people have the right to defend themselves (and others) and may use reasonable force to do so. But the person they are defending themselves against does, whatever Nadine Dorries says, still have rights.

It is unclear whether Dorries is proposing that human rights be suspended while a crime is being committed or whether she actually believes that burglars should have their rights 'removed' - I do hope that she would agree with me that the rights listed in Articles 9, 14, and 15 of the covenant should be maintained.


Anonymous said...

She's merely reflecting a cultural trend, which the media does much to facilitate, whereby certain groups of people are marked out as the deserving crapped-upon, whom to various degrees are stripped of their humanity. Pundits like this are among the most shrill in demanding the HRA be revoked, despite the fact that the HRA's main beneficaries have been people in social care. Genuine humans are, of course, people like themselves, so if spackers get held down in headlocks, it really doesn't matter to them anyway.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting.

Re your comment about the cultural trend whereby "certain groups of people are marked out as the deserving crapped-upon": this is something I think I would agree with.

In 1920s America, it was the anarchists, communists, and Italians who were singled out. Italian anarchists had particular cause to be concerned. The case of Sacco and Vanzetti comes to mind.

In this country in the 1980s, we had the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. Not to mention the Birmingham Six.

Now, there are concerns that British Muslims are being scapegoated in a similar fashion.

The targets may change over time, but it seems that scapegoating is always with us.