The most significant comment of the UK general election was made by Prime Minister Theresa May Tuesday. Declaring her four-point plan to clamp down on terrorism, she promised, “If our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it.”
This threat goes beyond even the reactionary implications of the anti-terror agenda she outlined. These measures include ending “safe spaces” on the Internet by censorship and forcing ISPs to facilitate mass state surveillance by abandoning end-to-end encryption. They also target what May called the “real world”—especially the public sector, where teachers, doctors and other professionals will be transformed into a network of informers to police both “extremist” thought and any movement designated as such by the state.
Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty, said of May’s statement, “What she means is this: If the right to liberty or to a fair trial or not to be tortured gets in the way, she’ll just scrap them—casually disposing with values set down to stop tyranny after the horrors of the second world war.”
Most significant of all is the fact identified by the Guardian that tearing up human rights laws “would involve declaring a state of emergency.”
May’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green has said changes to human rights laws would involve “a derogation” from the European Convention on Human Rights. A European Court of Human Rights fact sheet stresses that “the right to derogate can be invoked only in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation.” The fact that the Tories plan to call a state of emergency was confirmed by Green, who cited France’s declaration following the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. These involved suicide bombings and mass shootings of 130 people at the Bataclan theatre.