Since the attacks in the UK in the last month or so, Theresa May has announced another policy to add to the Conservative manifesto. She said that she would ‘rip up’ the Human Rights Act if it stood in the way of countering terrorism. She would rip up the very piece of legislation that people fought for during WWII, she would tear down barriers to fight terrorism with unthinkable means. The very rights that every citizen in this country have, would no longer exist.

There are several issues when it comes to sharing vital information with our allies, the EU would not be able to share intelligence with us due to scrapping the act.

Plus, she misses the point entirely about extremism but of course she has no care for tackling the issue.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

Theresa May and other Conservatives have been in favour in recent times to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which would allow any decision by the UK courts remain unchecked by the ECHR. Bear in mind it was British lawyers that drew up the legislation for the ECHR in the first place after WWII. The ECHR upholds rights of individuals within 47 European countries.

Key aspects of the European Convention on Human Rights are freedom of the press, without it could mean that any form of press that speaks out negatively against the government could face being shut down.

Child protection, the ECHR have overruled British courts in the past, when they have ruled some violent cases as ‘reasonable’. Homophobia, a ruling from the ECHR after N. Ireland tried to criminalise homosexuality in 1981 set in motion the Council of Europe’s legal precedent that no EU state could criminalise homosexuality, this is an important protection for the LGBTQI community.

They ruled that torture was a degrading and inhumane treatment, with the practice being officially ended within the army. Deportation, if we changed the laws it could mean that millions of innocent civilians could be deported by the government at a whim, some cases have stood out but many of the individuals in question have largely been deported in the end.

But not without assurances by specific nations such as Jordan and the US over potential human rights violations.

Internet censorship

The other concern comes from the Conservative manifesto itself, where there are plans to essentially censor the internet. They seem harmless to begin with and it is under the guise of defeating terrorism. The problems emerge once you consider the technical details of how they would be able to implement the policy itself. The manifesto says the following:

“So we will establish a regulatory framework in law to underpin our digital charter and to ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles.” This would be basic regulatory framework in which companies would have to abide by when providing content on the internet.

It continues to say that they would introduce sanctions to make sure companies comply with the law, this would allow fines or legal action to be taken against them. Finally, They say that they would introduce a 'industry-wide levy', creating government powers to counter 'internet harms' through social media and communications service providers.

However, the main issue doesn’t arise from forcing companies to censor material that the government deems needed. The problem is stopping the general population from being able to access sites that don’t come under UK jurisdiction, it becomes a complex and entangled web of programming and expensive cyber monitoring. It could stop perfectly legal 18 plus sites from existing, it could easily lead to pro-government propaganda being displayed regularly.

There are many abuses that could follow on from this law and if you couple it with the removal of the Human Rights Act, our civil liberties as we know could be slowly stripped.

As previously said, it is stopping UK citizens are not visiting content that hasn’t been approved by the government. This would mean the creation of a walled-garden like system along with the banning of virtual private networks and anonymisation services, like policies enacted in China.

Civil liberties slowly eroded

Of course, we wouldn’t see civil liberties gone overnight, that would lead to anarchy and violence on the streets (most likely). It would be slow one-by-one removal, where the population will largely be apathetic towards the idea.

The first step would be to use a situation that sees security breached (a terrorist attack) to promote it as a positive, then slowly strip them away one-by-one, so that the general population don’t notice until it is too late. This is how Erdogan has gained power and how dictators act.