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Democracies throughout the world profess their commitment to human rights, but in most of those democracies the institutional machinery for realising that commitment is profoundly undemocratic: it depends on unelected judges providing legal remedies for individuals whose rights have been violated, usually, by elected decision-makers. As a result, human rights discourse is everywhere bedevilled by a permanent crisis of democratic legitimacy.
Since 2001 the UK's parliamentary human rights committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights ("the JCHR"), has sought to confront this democratic deficit in human rights discourse by enhancing the role of Parliament in protecting and promoting human rights. Parliamentary human rights committees, such as the JCHR, are one of the main mechanisms for institutionalising the transparent scrutiny of the adequacy of public justifications for interferences with, or failures to protect, human rights, but to date there is no detailed study of their work or assessment of their impact.
The aim of this book is to arrive at a preliminary assessment of how effective the JCHR has been in enhancing Parliament's role in relation to human rights, and what the judicial response to that role has been, with a view to making specific practical recommendations as to how parliaments everywhere can take a more proactive role in the protection and promotion of human rights and how courts, in turn, should respond. It concludes that the effective protection and fulfilment of human rights in a modern democracy requires both courts and legislatures to play a significant role in the implementation of human rights norms.