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.
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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
- What is the Human Rights Act for?
- When will the Human Rights Act come into force?
- How does the Human Rights Act work?
- How can use the Human Rights Act to enforce my rights?
- Who will be able to bring a Human Rights case?
- Will I still be able to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg?
- Will the Act apply to things which happen before the Human Rights Act comes into force?
- Does the Human Rights Act change my rights?
- Who is in charge - Tynwald or the Courts?
- Will there be lots more court cases?