As citizens of the Isle of Man we enjoy important legal rights and protected civil liberties including under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act.
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
This is a Declaration which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10th December 1948 and set out for the first time fundamental human rights to be universally protected all around the world.
Article 1 states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has its roots in the very serious infringements on personal liberty arising during the First World War, the Interwar Years and then the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust during the Second World War.
In the Isle of Man, under the Human Rights Act 2001, it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.
Some of the key ECHR rights in summarised form include:-
Article 3 – “No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Article 6 – “Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law”.
Article 8 – “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”.
Article 9 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.
Article 10 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”.
Article 11 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others”.
Some of these rights are defined by the Court as being absolute. This means that they can never be interfered with in any circumstances. Article 3 is an example of an absolute right. In the case of Tyrer v UK 1972, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Isle of Man’s corporal punishment policy of birching constituted degrading treatment contrary to Article 3. This Article also places the State under a positive obligation to carry out an effective investigation capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible for the violations.
In contrast, other rights are described as qualified which means they can lawfully be interfered with, for example if it is necessary in the interests of public safety or the protection of the rights of others.
Any interference with qualified rights is subject to the test of proportionality which means in effect that the interference must be no more than is necessary to achieve one of the aims of the Convention.
Interference by the State with individual rights is also subject to a doctrine known as the margin of appreciation. This is the leeway granted to Member States in recognition of the cultural and political differences between them.
During the Covid pandemic, some countries introduced various types of “vaccine passports” allowing entry to certain premises and businesses but only to those persons vaccinated against Covid-19. Arguably such passports were unnecessary and disproportionate and discriminated against the Article 8 and 9 ECHR of the unvaccinated.
Similarly, public protests were banned during the pandemic under prohibition on movement regulations. This meant in effect that marches, campaigns and vigils were not allowed and led to public protests such as the Black Lives Matter street crusades being deemed illegal. Again such restrictions were arguably unnecessary and disproportionate and discriminated against the Article 10 and 11 rights of protestors.
The Equality Act
The UK Equality Act 2010 effectively combines the Race Relations Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Disability Discrimination Act together with other considerations to create one single overarching anti-discrimination law. The IOM Equality Act 2017 largely mirrors this.
In simple terms, it provides legal rights to individuals against discrimination and unfair treatment in the provision of goods and services and promotes an inclusive society. The Equality Act represents the culmination of decades of campaigning and protests including against racial discrimination, low pay for women and the exclusion of disabled persons from large sections of public life.
The protected characteristics under the Equality Act are disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
In simple terms, direct discrimination is where a person with a protected characteristic is treated worse than another person (e.g. a pregnant woman is not offered promotion simply because she is pregnant), whereas indirect discrimination happens where a policy applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages a person with a protected characteristic (e.g. a workplace introduces a policy of working Sundays with no exceptions or adjustments for any staff. This may discriminate against Christian staff who observe the Sabbath).
The Data Protection Act 2019 provides important legal rights regarding how personal data is accessed, used and stored. It sets out a number of important principles including in relation to the rights of access to information and confidentiality.
Many countries around the world reacted to the Covid pandemic in 2020 by hastily introducing draconian and unprecedented curbs on personal freedom and choice.
We currently live in a world where human rights have never been more relevant but equally have never been more imperilled by cruel state coercion, evil totalitarianism and cynical abuse of power and where freedom of speech is increasingly curtailed by insidious censorship.
There were many examples during the pandemic of heavy-handed policing, questionable border policies and disproportionate restrictions applied in education and business environments and many glaring incidences where the right to protest, respect for private life and individual expression were seriously infringed.
And so whether it is in holding the Police, Prison or Immigration Service to account, whether it is challenging the actions of government departments and self-serving Public elites or whether it is battling against prejudice and inequality, now is the time to stand up for truth and transparency, to champion freedom and to fight against the sinister forces of authoritarianism.
Click on Insights to find out more on how Ian has campaigned on these important social justice issues