Human Rights - Illusory Freedom

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

When the topic of human rights peeks through the headlines, garnering action and progressive debate, my ears are at attention. Luke has penned a treatise on freedom, touching on the enigma revolving around the mosaic of ethicolegal concerns where human rights is center stage. He skillfully expounds upon various arguments and presents a strong case for the restoration and subsequent handing over of the control to those who hold freedom in high esteem.

Highly recommended for readers with an acute interest in international human rights and the legislative history and present dynamic stimulating the debates.
Was this review helpful?
The premise of this book is interesting, but it focused only on the UK and not the rest of the world.  I thought that it would have been interesting to read about human rights and all cultures and countries.
Was this review helpful?
I was excited for a book about human rights but surprisingly it's entirely about the UK! Very region specific.
Was this review helpful?
Luke Gittos’ has a very radical message: human rights grant an illusory freedom and are a weak guarantee for a free society. The main idea, shared by the vast majority of people, is that human rights laws are a step towards realizing a universal respect for human dignity and a way to prevent the repeat of evils in the past. Gittos demonstrates that human rights laws are contributing to the erosion of civil liberties and are increasing the arbitrary interference by the state in people’s lives. 
In the UK, the Human Rights Act, passed as a response to a crisis in public confidence in democratic institutions, gave greater control over civil liberties to the judiciary. It expanded police powers of stop and search, the state’s surveillance power and restrictions on liberty. People, therefore, are less able to defend themselves against state power. 
Limitations on civil liberties in response to terrorism show how freedom is highly precarious in the modern age. Even human rights organizations are giving a distorted image of freedom. They present themselves as an insurance policy against the repeat of previous catastrophes and as supporters of a fair, just and equal society, but claim that sometimes it is legitimate to place limits on certain freedoms.
What Gittos believes is that it is necessary the repeal of the Human Rights Act, because it has done nothing to help vulnerable people and it protects a narrow and deeply qualified (with restrictions) idea of freedom. He suggests that it is fundamental to place the meanings of important freedoms back on the table for public debate and to roll back the role of judiciary in assessing, challenging and undermining policies and decisions made by elected representatives.
Was this review helpful?
Excellent summary of all the rights I’ve lost since way before I was born, lol. Highly recommended for all people who would like to have rights, or at least want to know where they went.
Was this review helpful?
Freedom from Human Rights Laws

Human Rights - Illusory Freedom is a strange little book. It purports to show that the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights that receives petitions on it should be repealed. Luke Gittos’ historical summaries are adequate, but his conclusions don’t draw from them. So the whole book is unsatisfying. 

He correctly claims that international bodies like the UN and the EU have strengthened their positions by adding human rights to their causes. But he then says this is a negative development, without ever listing all the negatives (except perhaps for claiming it lessens discussions on freedom). Instead, he cities individual cases where he thinks justice failed.

The UK has a glorious history of nibbling away at human rights, for example, removing the right to remain silent. Gittos somehow connects this to the European Court of Human Rights being at fault, when of course it was purely the British Parliament that has been the usurper. The same can be said of Anti-Social Behaviour offences, which police can assign without the bother of trial. But rather than lay blame on the Conservatives or Labour, he calls out democracy itself as the problem. His description of the erosion of rights under both parties is strong, but the conclusion that democracy is the cause goes unsupported.

Gittos treats us to bizarre conclusions such as “It is a though all is fair in love and war except the violation of human rights,” and “Human rights rhetoric ossifies our moral thinking.” He then proceeds to dismember human rights organizations by dissecting their marketing materials.

He glosses over the fact the Human Rights Court has served to both promote the cause of human rights in the West, and has helped numerous individuals from countries where human rights have, shall we say, low priority. He barely mentions that the top three sources of human rights cases the court handles are Russia, Turkey and Italy. 

Missing from his arguments altogether are checks and balances. The world is (still) unfair, even in the so-called civilized countries like the UK and the USA. Homeland Security oversees lists of potential terrorists numbering over a million, far more than there are in the world. Their travel is made miserable. The UK deports foreigners it fears will foment violence. It can hold people without charge for four weeks. The USA holds immigrants without charge indefinitely. The Human Rights Act seeks to put a check on those kinds of abuses. When it does not fully succeed, or when it is leveraged to excess by unscrupulous lawyers, that does not mean it must be repealed. Bathwater and babies need to be separated. And diapers changed when filled.

One legitimate beef Gittos has is that calling everything a civil rights issue detracts from political failure. And this really is about political failure. Doesn’t matter whether it’s representative democracy (UK) or pretend democracy (Russia). The fault is in the political will or lack thereof.

Ultimately, there is one sentence at the very end where Gittos pleads for rolling back the Human Rights Act, so that societies can at last have real discussions around the concept of “freedom”. But he never makes the case that killing off the Human Rights Act would achieve that, or be beneficial, necessary, or even a little better.

David Wineberg
Was this review helpful?