28 October 2015
Cameron is facing a direct legal challenge over changes to the code which sets out rules and standards for ministerial behaviour.
The revised code no longer contains reference to ministers being bound by international law.
Instead of ministers being bound to comply with the law “including international law and treaty obligations”, they now are only obliged to comply with “the law”
The government is arguing the difference is only one of semantics, but leading lawyers are of the mind that the change will effect decisions about declaring war and using military force, for example in Syria. If the difference was only a semantic one, why bother changing it?
Rights Watch director Yasmine Ahmed said: “For the government to erase from the ministerial code the starting presumption that its ministers will comply with international law is seriously concerning.
“It evidences a marked shift in the attitude and commitment of the UK government towards its international legal obligations.”
Former attorney general and vocal critic of Cameron’s approach to human rights, Dominic Grieve told the Guardian: “It is impossible to understand why this change has been carried out. If it’s intended to try to remove the obligation to respect international law and our treaties, it doesn’t work. It sends out a very bad signal and is open to misunderstanding and they shouldn’t have done it.”
Also of concern is the government’s attitude to international standards and obligations covering employment rights and trade union freedoms. As the President of IER, Professor Keith Ewing told the Public Committee taking evidence on the Trade Union Bill, many of the current proposals in the Bill are likely to infringe international law.