PanamaTimes

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Is the proposed Rwanda bill feasible, and what obstacles could it face?

Is the proposed Rwanda bill feasible, and what obstacles could it face?

Legal experts involved with the Rwanda case have forecast a potential clash between the new bill, the UK Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights. The Supreme Court recently judged unanimously that Rwanda's asylum system is unsafe, citing substantial evidence.
The government's response in the bill is to ask Parliament to classify Rwanda as definitively safe and to restrict judges from contesting this assessment, even in extreme and unlikely situations, such as a new civil war. The bill also requires judges to disregard human rights safeguards from both the Human Rights Act and international treaties, such as the Refugee Convention and the UN's anti-torture rules.

This legislative maneuver is controversial, both legally and politically, as it appears to enable the UK to selectively comply with international standards it once championed, while expecting Rwanda to consistently adhere to them. Renowned legal scholar Professor Mark Elliott has even labeled this as hypocritical.

Additionally, the Supreme Court has indicated that other British laws contradict the assessment of Rwanda as safe. The bill's omission of adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights suggests that its compatibility with existing human rights commitments is questionable, likely leading to legal scrutiny.

If passed, the bill may provoke extensive, complex litigation, potentially involving conflicts with Scottish law, which could echo previous legal defeats faced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the Brexit crisis. The Supreme Court, while unable to nullify primary legislation, can issue a Declaration of Incompatibility, urging reconsideration of laws that violate human rights—in this case, the right to humane treatment and a fair trial before deportation.

Despite the government's capacity to overlook such a declaration, if the European Court of Human Rights intervenes, the bill permits ministers to disregard its rulings and proceed with deporting individuals.

The bill faces two significant hurdles in becoming effective: political approval, where its passage through Parliament is uncertain, and legal challenges. High-profile legal experts have previously confronted the government on Rwanda, suggesting a barrage of court cases might delay the bill's implementation indefinitely, potentially up to the next General Election.
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