A respectable panel of Judges chaired by Philippe Sands discussed the relationship between international and domestic law with a specific focus on criminal and human rights law.
Thomas Buergenthal’s personal experiences as “A Lucky Child” surviving Auschtwitz, served as a reminder of the origins of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). He expressed his “sadness and surprise” to learn that UK MPs had suggested repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). He stated that “every country has skeletons in their closet” and only International Law can hold countries to account when atrocities are committed against its citizens.
Practicing Judge Leveson was comically careful not to contribute any political opinions during discussions and humorously restricted himself to the facts.
National sovereignty was the only argument raised in favour of the retreat from the ECHR and thus the panel discussed the way in which international law impacts the domestic courts. They highlighted that international law is put into effect through domestic enactment and that British judges are not directly bound by Strasbourg.
The panel stressed the need for the UK’s contribution to international law and the importance of mutual respect between the domestic and international courts. It was felt that a repeal would set a bad precedent, being a declaration of independence by the UK.
A memorable comment from this inspiring event was that “a country cannot exist alone as an island in the modern world”.