23rd Mar 2019

European court backs vote for prisoners

People in prison should have the same right to vote as other people, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, obliging Britain to give 77,000 prisoners the right to participate in local and general elections.

The case before the Strasbourg court was brought in 2003 by a 54 year-old former prisoner, John Hirst, convicted of manslaughter in 1980.

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When denied the vote from prison, he first claimed his right to "take part in the democratic process" in the UK's High Court and lost, writes the Independent.

However, the European Court of Human Rights backed Mr Hirst and ruled on Thursday (6 October) that the British Government had breached his human rights.

The Strasbourg court argued that according to the European Convention on Human Rights, voting is "a right, not a privilege".

The court also emphasised that prisoners continue to "enjoy all the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under the convention, except for the right to liberty".

Mr Hirst, now a free man, told the Independent that "The human rights court has agreed with me that the government's position is wrong; it doesn't matter how heinous the crime, everyone is entitled to have the basic human right to vote".

But the announcement from Strasbourg will not go unchallenged.

"The result of this is not that every convicted prisoner is going to get the right to vote", Lord Falconer of Thoroton, a member of the British House of Lords, said on BBC Radio 4's World at One on Thursday.

"If you have been convicted of an offence that puts you in prison, you are, for that period, being taken out of freedom in society. It is absolutely plain that, whatever happens, in relation to prisoners sent to prison for any length of time, that [the ban] will remain".

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is an international court assigned to guard the European Charter of Human Rights, signed in 1950 in Rome.

All 46 member countries of the Council of Europe, among them all EU member states, have signed the charter.

Thirteen member states of the Council of Europe currently deny prisoners the right to vote.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

Orban rejects Weber's plea to stop anti-EU posters

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has pledged to put up new anti-migrant posters - despite hopes in his centre-right EU family that he might "apologise and put an end" to the campaign.

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