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Human Rights

The Island's Human Rights Act 2001 came fully into force on 1st November 2006.

An updated edition of the brief introduction to the Human Rights Act is now available to download.

The Isle of Man Human Rights Act is similar in many respects to the UK Human Rights Act which has been in force for a number of years. For information, a copy of the United Kingdom Government's review of the operation of the UK Human Rights Act, published in July 2006, together with updated information and guidance can be found on the website of the Ministry of Justice.

Introduction

If the information here does not answer your questions, please email us at enquiries.cso@gov.im

The Human Rights Act was passed by Tynwald in 2001 and it came fully into force on 1st November 2006. The Act incorporates the fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law. It also makes it unlawful for a public authority to behave in a way which clashes with those rights.

The Human Rights Act is relevant to everyone, and it is especially important for people who deliver public services to be aware of it. The Act is a positive commitment towards safeguarding the rights of the people of the Isle of Man because although the rights are not new, they will be much easier for Island residents to realise.

After the atrocities encountered during the Second World War, it was felt that an international agreement was required to safeguard the citizens of Europe from further crimes against humanity. The Allies wanted to 'reconstruct durable civilization on the mainland of Europe'. In November 1950, the Council of Europe (an organisation of 46 countries which is completely separate from the European Union) adopted The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The treaty was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1951. In 1953 the United Kingdom (which is responsible for the external relations of the Isle of Man) extended the Convention to the Island.

Until the Act came into force, an Isle of Man resident who felt that their rights had been violated had to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to have their case heard. The road to Strasbourg can be long and expensive and the Government feels that the public should be able to guarantee their Human Rights here in the Isle of Man.

The Human Rights Act will ensure that all public authorities act in a way which is compliant with the main articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Public Authorities acting in violation of the Convention will be acting unlawfully. Manx courts will be required to read and give effect to all legislation in a way which is compatible with the main articles of the Convention, and where that is absolutely impossible, to make a statement of incompatibility.

The rights enshrined within the Act are designed to protect the individual against any abuses by the State. They are not designed to settle disputes between individuals. However, the courts must interpret all legislation in a way which is compatible with the Convention and, 'Public Authorities', will be bound to apply the principles of the Convention in their every day work. This means that it will be possible for the courts to consider Convention points when deliberating a case between two private individuals. Any interference with the rights of an individual must be proportionate. If the Government introduces a law, which is pursuing a legitimate aim but causes the disproportionate restriction of a person's rights, the legislation may be held to be incompatible.

If the courts ultimately feel that an Act cannot be interpreted in a way that complies with the Convention, they can make a declaration of incompatibility. This is a sign to Tynwald that the law should be changed, but Tynwald is not obliged to do so. If Tynwald for some reason declined to amend the offending law, the applicant could then take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Ultimately, the Human Rights Act puts many more checks and balances in place between the infringement of a right and it's hearing in the Strasbourg Court. The rights are not new, but will become easier to enforce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers

Q What is the Human Rights Act for?
A The Act allows cases about the rights and freedoms protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (to which the Isle of Man has been party for nearly 50 years) to be heard in Manx courts. It should help to create a society in which rights and responsibilities are properly balanced and in which an awareness of human rights principles permeates our governmental and legal systems at all levels.
Q When will the Human Rights Act come into force?
A The Act was brought into force on 1st November 2006.
Q How does the Human Rights Act work?
A The Human Rights Act should enforce the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights in three ways:
  • public authorities will not be allowed to do anything to violate your rights, or you will be able to take them to court ;
  • you will be able to bring a case about your Human Rights in the Manx courts;
  • the courts will count as 'public authorities', so they will have to take your Human Rights into account when they pass judgements.
Q How can I use the Human Rights Act to enforce my rights?
A It is much easier to insist on your rights if they are written down. You can point them out to the person who you think is ignoring them. If you think that a public authority has breached your rights, you will be able to:
  • take the authority to court for breaching your rights;
  • rely on your human rights in any case involving a public authority.
Q Who will be able to bring a Human Rights case?
A Only a 'victim' will be able to bring a case - that means a person, a group of people or a corporate entity who have directly suffered, or are likely to suffer directly, a violation of their rights. Special interest groups will not be able to bring hypothetical test cases, but they will be able to support 'victims' taking a case.
Q Will I still be able to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg?
A Yes. But the Strasbourg court will want to know that you have exhausted all domestic remedies first - which will include the legal routes opened up by the Human Rights Act.
Q Will the Act apply to things which happen before the Human Rights Act came into force?
A Generally, no. The only way it would apply is if a public authority brings a case against you about things that happened before the Act came into force. You would then be able to use your Human Rights in your defence.
Q Does the Human Rights Act change my rights?
A No. It just makes them easier to enforce. The Isle of Man has been party to the European Convention on Human Rights for nearly 50 years; but before the Human Rights Act came into force, Manx courts could not make decisions about your human rights. This had to be done in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It can be very expensive and it often takes years to get a case to the Strasbourg court. The Government now feels that the people of the Isle of Man should be able to defend their rights in their own country.
Q Who is in charge - Tynwald or the Courts?
A Only your elected representatives in Tynwald can make Acts of Tynwald. It is the court's job to enforce those Acts. Now the Human Rights Act is in force, the courts will be required to interpret the law in a way which fits in with the Convention rights. If a court finds this impossible, then it will make a formal statement saying that the law cannot be read as compatible with the Convention rights. The law will still have effect, and it will be up to Tynwald to decide what to do about it.
Q Will there be lots more court cases?
A This has not been the case and our courts are likely to give spurious or vexatious cases short shrift. When Scotland introduced their Act, only 2% of the initial rush of cases were successful.
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