A legal battle between the UK government and the Covid inquiry is based on the convention on human rights


The UK government cites the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in its legal battle with the Covid inquiry. The ECHR is an international treaty protecting European human rights and fundamental freedoms. Article 8 of the ECHR covers the right to private life, and the government argues that handing over unredacted WhatsApp messages and diaries of government officials would breach this right.

The government’s lawyers have argued that the messages are “personal and private” and contain information irrelevant to the inquiry. They have also argued that the question does not have the power to compel the government to hand over the messages and that doing so would set a dangerous precedent.

The Covid inquiry has argued that the messages are essential to its investigation and that the government is trying to cover up its mistakes during the pandemic. The inquiry’s chair, Lady Heather Hallett, has said that the government’s refusal to hand over the messages is “deeply concerning” and “undermines public confidence” in the inquiry.

The legal battle will be heard in the High Court in June 2023.

Here are some additional details about the case:

  • The government has asked the High Court to review the inquiry’s demand for the WhatsApp messages judicially. This means that the court will review the lawfulness of the inquiry’s decision and whether it can compel the government to hand over the letters.
  •  The government has also argued that the inquiry’s demand for the messages is “disproportionate” and that it would “unjustifiably interfere” with the privacy of government officials.
  •  The inquiry has said it is “disappointed” by the government’s decision to take legal action and believes the messages are essential to its investigation.
  •  The inquiry has also said that it is confident that the High Court will uphold its demand for the messages.

The public and legal experts will closely watch the case. It is a test case of the government’s willingness to cooperate with general inquiries and the ECHR’s power to protect government officials’ privacy.

Here are some sources that you can refer to:

  • UK government cites rights convention in a legal battle with Covid inquiry: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jun/30/no-10-lawyers-using-echr-law-to-shield-unredacted-whatsapps-from-covid-inquiry.
  •  Government to take legal action against Covid inquiry over Johnson WhatsApps: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jun/01/government-to-launch-legal-action-in-attempt-to-retain-johnson-whatsapps
  •  Covid inquiry: Government will probably lose the legal case, says minister: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-65784392

Johnson, an interested party in the case, reiterated his willingness to comply with Hallett. The former prime minister’s lawyer, Lord Pannick KC, said in his written arguments: “Mr Johnson has no objection to the inquiry inspecting the materials unredacted, subject to appropriate security and confidentiality arrangements having been put in place, given the personal and sensitive nature of some of the material.”

The judges will give their ruling at lat.

About the author

Marta Lopez

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