Call for Scottish Parliament to establish a Human Rights Committee

Date: 15th May 2012
Category: General measures of implementation

The Scottish Parliament should establish a separate Human Rights Committee because the current committee system has failed to adequately consider human rights issues.

In a report produced for the Cross Party Group on Human Rights at Holyrood deficiencies in approach were found in several of the existing structures, most notably the Justice Committee. For example, the report notes that when discussing issues such as inclusivity of the justice system, legal aid and prisons, the Committee did not make reference to human rights which the authors found "extremely concerning."

Dr Kurt Mills, Senior Lecturer in International Human Rights at the University of Glasgow and Convenor of the Glasgow Human Rights Network which produced the report said:

"We found that whilst there is some consideration of human rights at Holyrood, consideration of such issues is haphazard at best. The committee with the official mandate for human rights, the Justice Committee, exhibits, according to the report, "a reductive and sceptical pattern of attitude towards human rights." It rarely makes reference to the regional and global human rights regimes of which the UK is a member, and when it does it appears to see human rights merely as a constraint on the administration of criminal justice."

"It is clear that for the Scottish Parliament to adequately live up to human rights obligations found in the UK Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, and many other international human rights instruments to which the UK is a party, it needs a mechanism whereby all relevant legislation can be considered from a human rights perspective. Current arrangements are not adequate. The most reasonable course of action is to create a human rights committee within the Scottish Parliament to act as a focal point for such review and discussion."