The president of the Supreme Court defended the Human Rights Act tonight as "a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism".
Delivering the Gresham College special lecture at Lincoln's Inn, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers argued that a failure to respect human rights would fuel support for terrorism.
This is how Britain's most senior judge developed his argument.
The so called "war against terrorism" is not so much a military as an ideological battle. Respect for human rights is a key weapon in that ideological battle. Since the Second World War we in Britain have welcomed to the United Kingdom millions of immigrants from all corners of the globe, many of them refugees from countries where human rights were not respected. It is essential that they and their children and grandchildren should be confident that their adopted country treats them without discrimination and with due respect for their human rights.
If they feel that they are not being fairly treated, their consequent resentment will inevitably result in the growth of those who, actively or passively are prepared to support terrorists who are bent on destroying our society. The Human Rights Act is not merely their safeguard. It is a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism.
Lord Phillips is, of course, right in saying that Britain should respect the human rights of immigrants. But there seems to be no evidence that people turn to terrorism because their rights are not respected. And it must be even harder to sustain the corollary of that argument - that respecting the rights of immigrants will reduce the risk of attack by terrorists. Those behind the London bombings of 7 July 2005 are not thought to have been concerned about any perceived inadequacies in the Human Rights Act.
Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.
- Standpoint Presenting Two Debates At HowTheLightGetsIn 2016
- The Compleat Corbyn — a round-up of Standpoint's Corbyn coverage this month
- We Told You So
- Sir Raymond Carr in Standpoint
- Conduct Unbecoming: The Classical Commentaries of Norman Lebrecht in Standpoint
- Chronicling The Crash: A Standpoint Ebook
- Grounds for Hope
- Is Islam a Peaceful Religion? Daniel Johnson at the Oxford Union
- Win Tickets to the Inaugural Standpoint Salon
- Is Hunter's History Bunk?
- Lawson Collects on Climate Change Bet
- The Cabinet meeting that kept Salman Rushdie alive
- Friends of Russia or Friends of Putin?
- Russia's Win-Win Election
- The Kremlin Plays Old Tricks With Pussy Riot
- A Pyrrhic Victory for Georgian Democracy
- Abandoned in Moscow
- Standpoint's New Facebook Page
- No need to pander to the Bear, Mr Obama
- Standpoint Recommends: The Tacitus Lecture 2012
- Goodbye, Vienna
- Friends Indeed — Daniel Johnson on Gertrude Himmelfarb
- New Culture Forum Lecture: Jeremy Hunt
- Kangaroo Courts Arrive Down Under
- The BBC's painful novelties
- Money can't buy you love - Nichi Hodgson