The 14 Worst Human Rights Myths

This myth-busting visualization will take news-making human rights stories and explain the reality behind the headline

Human rights cases are being decided by unelected European judges

The myth

European Court of Human Rights judgments are made by unelected and under-qualified judges

What really happened

Just wrong. Judges of the European Court of Human Rights must hold legal qualifications to be appointed. And, they are each elected by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, which is made up of representatives from all member states including the UK.

The Human Rights Act only favours criminals

The myth

The Human Rights Act is a charter for criminals and parasites. Article 8, the right to private and family life, enables criminals to stay in the UK and therefore make a mockery of justice.

What really happened

This is untrue. A huge number of human rights claimants are not criminals. Of the 28 ‘declarations of incompatibility’ made under the Human Rights Act since its introduction in October 2000, only 11 involved convicted criminals or terrorists. Of those 11, two were about people with ‘spent’ convictions who wanted those convictions stricken from the national police database.
Other human rights cases have involved protecting children from abuse, and protecting elderly people from closures of nursing homes that would involve risks to their life, health or well-being

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The UK loses most European Human Rights cases

The myth

The Daily Mail has reported that the UK loses 3 out of 4 Human Rights cases taken to the European Court of Human Rights. The Sun puts the figure at 3 out of 5.

What really happened

This is statistical nonsense. The UK actually only loses around 1 out of every 100 of claims brought against it in the European Court of Human Rights. Between 1,500-2,000 claims are brought against the UK each year, and the UK loses around 10 annually.

Criminals received £4.4million of taxpayers’ money in human rights compensation

The myth

In October 2013 Strasbourg justices, some of whom are not even legally trained, doled out an average of £22,000 each to more than 200 traitors, crooks and rapists in compensation under the Human Rights Act.

What really happened

This figure is hugely distorted. Most of the cases were not brought by criminals. And the real figure of compensation granted by the Court since 1998 is around £1.7m, less than half of the alleged payout. The rest of the money covered legal costs.

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An Italian killer allowed to stay in UK because of right to family and private life

The myth

15 year old Learco Chindamo stabbed headmaster Philip Lawrence outside a primary school in 1995. After he served his life sentence, an Immigration Tribunal decided not to deport him back to Italy because he could not speak Italian and had a right to private and family life in the UK.

What really happened

The decision of the Tribunal was made under EU law, not human rights. EU laws exist independently of human rights laws. EU free movement law can prevent the expulsion of citizens of one member state from another member state. The court mentioned Chindamo’s human right to private and family life, but it was not the basis of their decision.

Terrorists can get asylum under the Human Rights Act

The myth

A man arrested in London had claimed asylum based on his membership of The Taliban. Under current laws like the Human Rights Act, anyone can claim asylum, even if they are members of extremist terrorist groups.

What really happened

The right to claim asylum is not controlled by the Human Rights Act. It is in the 1951 Refugee Convention. And, the Refugee Convention does not apply to those who have committed a “crime against peace” a “war crime” or a “crime against humanity” (Article 1F).

The European Court has banned British judges from sending criminals to prison for life

The myth

The European Court of Human Rights stopped a British judge imposing a whole-life sentence on Ian McLoughlin for the murder of Graham Buck, 66 and won’t allow the UK to impose whole life sentences at all.

What really happened

British judges can still impose “whole life orders”. In February 2014 The English and Welsh Court of Appeal made clear that judges could impose whole life sentences. In February 2015 the European Court of Human Rights agreed.

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Police didn’t release ‘wanted’ pictures of murderers because of the right to privacy

The myth

In 2006 the Derbyshire police force refused to release the pictures of two fugitive murderers because it interfered with their human right to privacy.

What really happened

The decision had nothing to do with human rights. Police initially did not release photographs of convicted murderers because they believed the men were not in Derbyshire, and there was no policing purpose to showing their faces.

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A convicted rapist murdered a girl after being released because of human rights

The myth

Anthony Rice was serving a life sentence for rape, but was released on licence. He murdered Naomi Bryant nine months later. The Chief Inspector of Probation’s report on the killing showed the Human Rights Act is being misapplied; Rice’s lawyers shifted the focus on to his human rights rather than the risk of harm he presented to the public, in order to secure his release.

What really happened

He was not released because of concerns about his human rights, but because the authorities messed up the process.

The report into the killing said that Rice’s release was due to a catalogue of errors by authorities. For example, key information about Rice’s past crimes – including a serious assault on a five year old – was not given to the Parole Board. The Chief Inspector of Probation later said that it was a huge distortion to say that Rice was released in order to comply with his human rights.

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British values have been overruled by European judges

The myth

European judges have imposed international laws that conflict with common-sense British values.

What really happened

Human Rights strongly reflect traditional British values. The European Convention, a treaty that states our human rights, was largely drafted by British lawyers. They based it on values that had been part of our common law for centuries, dating back 800 years to Magna Carta. The UK Parliament then chose to enshrine the European Convention rights into our law through the Human Rights Act.

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The European Union is responsible for Human Rights

The myth

The media often blames the European Union for human rights decisions. The Sun does it a lot. After a decision regarding CRB checks, the ‘EU could let fiends like him [a criminal] prey on your children’. A few weeks later, there was a ‘victory for evil’ as ‘EU Judges say whole-life terms ‘inhumane’’. The newspaper also introduced us to ‘HEUman Rights’, because ‘EU Human Rights Laws stop 745 foreign lags from being deported’.

What really happened

The European Convention of Human Rights is the source of our human rights. It is not part of the EU. It is an international treaty aimed at protecting human rights, which the UK signed in 1950. It now has force in UK law because of the 1998 Human Rights Act.

The EU is an economic and political union of 27 states - an entirely different organization.

The decision about CRB checks was by the Court of Appeal, which is our own English and Welsh court and nothing to do with Europe.

A serial killer received hardcore porn in jail thanks to human rights

The myth

Daily Mail “The Human Rights Act 2000 [sic] allowed Serial killer Dennis Nilsen to win a case to look at hardcore pornographic magazines in his cell. He successfully argued that existing rules, which allowed him to look at soft porn magazines, infringed his human rights.”

What really happened

Almost totally false. Dennis Nilsen’s case was thrown out of court without getting to a full hearing. He could not convince a judge that he had even an arguable case that the prison had breached his human rights.

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A man was allowed to stay in the UK because he had a pet cat

The myth

In September 2011 the Home Secretary Theresa May told the Conservative Party Conference about the “illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.”

What really happened

Simply not true. He had a cat (named Maya) but the cat wasn’t the reason he was allowed to stay in the UK. The man was allowed to stay because the Home Office failed to apply its own guidance dealing with unmarried partners of people settled in the UK.

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Police give fried chicken to a burglar because of his human rights

The myth

In 2006 a suspected car thief fleeing police was besieged on a roof. While police attempted to negotiate with him he threw bricks and tiles at them and at passers-by. During the course of a 20-hour stand-off the police gave the man cigarettes and Kentucky Fried Chicken because of concern for his human rights.

What really happened

Untrue. The police team confirmed they were using ordinary negotiating tactics to encourage the thief to come down from the roof. There is no human right to fast food or to be fed by police whilst trying to escape them.

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Credits for 14 Worst Human Rights Myths

Concept by: Adam Wagner

Research by: Adam Wagner and Hayley Chapman

Design by: Information is Beautiful Studio

Site implementation by: Hikkendry

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The 14 Worst Human Rights Myths
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