Sir Patrick Stewart stands up for ECHR as Theresa May threatens withdrawal

Sir Patrick Stewart has released a comic video highlighting the benefits of membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), on the same day as Home Secretary has said the UK should withdraw from it.”

“We are a democracy, not some perverse genuflecting mouse-puppet on a European finger,” the actor angrily declares in the video, made by The Guardian newspaper. “Europe took our sovereignty, our dignity, the very essence of our Britishness, and what the ECHR ever given us in return?”

His colleagues inform him that the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, freedom from torture, freedom of religion, freedom to expression, and protecting victims of domestic violence are among the rights the ECHR enshrines, while the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland depends on the Convention.

The video comes on the same day as Home Secretary Theresa May said Britain should withdraw from the ECHR.

She said: “The ECHR can bind the hands of Parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights. So regardless of the EU referendum, my view is this.

“If we want to reform human rights laws in this country, it isn’t the EU we should leave but the ECHR and the jurisdiction of its court.”

In a phrase that mimicked Sir Patrick Stewart’s fake speech almost to the word, May added: “This is Great Britain – the country of Magna Carta.”

“We can protect human rights ourselves in a way that doesn’t jeopardise national security or bind the hands of Parliament.”

In the video, Sir Partick Stewart claims: “This is Britain! The land of Magna Carta! We invented human rights, for God’s sake: we should be writing our own Bill of Rights and foisting it on the Europeans, hahaha! Let’s see how they would like it…”

He is informed that scenario actually happened after Britain won the Second World War, and that the ECHR is a British invention.

Responding to May’s speech, Bella Sankey, the policy director for human rights organisation Liberty, said: “It was only a matter of time before the ECHR got dragged into the EU referendum debate. But the Convention doesn’t bind Parliament and – despite Theresa May’s best efforts at mud-slinging and myth-spreading over the years – the case for remaining a signatory is unequivocal.

“Britain founded it, it is the most successful system for the enforcement of human rights in the history of the world, and every day it helps bring freedom, justice and the Rule of Law to 820 million people.”

Sir Patrick is not the only actor to intervene on legal issues. Last year, actors including Joanna Lumley, Richard Wilson, Paterson Joseph and Simon Callow lent their voices to an animation highlighting the effects of austerity cuts on access to justice.