Together stands against Human Rights Act repeal

Date: 18th May 2016
Category: Other human rights treaties and mechanisms

Together has joined with the British Institute for Human Rights, Liberty, Amnesty International and many other prominent human rights organisations to publicly commit to oppose any attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA).

The HRA provides an essential mechanism through which the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) can be realised. The HRA has made a substantial contribution to the advancement of children's human rights and has played a vital role in the development of UK and Scots law and policy. It has been applied in a wide range of legal cases affecting children and young people, a growing number of which place considerable emphasis on articles in the UNCRC. This has included cases of fundamental importance to children, such as sibling contact, protection from violence and access to healthcare. The announcement in the Queen's Speech that the UK Government intends to replace the Act with a weaker 'British Bill of Rights' is of great concern. Such a proposal is likely to lessen children's protections of their human rights and go against the commitment in Scotland to enhance, rather than regress, the protections of human rights in law.

Together has united with Liberty, BIHR, Amnesty International to fight Government plans announced in today's Queen's Speech. A diverse coalition of more than 135 of the UK's most prominent organisations - ranging from religious and professional bodies to law firms, unions, environmental charities and the families of terrorism victims - have today publicly committed to oppose any attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act.

As the Government confirms its intention to replace the Act with a weaker "British Bill of Rights" in the Queen's Speech, over 135 organisations have pledged to fight the proposals.

The broad and varied group of signatories include charities supporting children, older people, carers, victims of trafficking and slavery, disabled people and asylum-seekers and refugees, as well as national groups representing psychiatrists, teachers, football supporters and students.

Among them are Friends of the Earth, Refuge, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Muslim Council of Great Britain, the National Union of Students, Quakers in Britain, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the TUC, Carers UK, Scotland's Children and Young People's Commissioner, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, René Cassin, the Down's Syndrome Association, the Football Supporters' Federation and UK Families Flight 103 - the group representing families of the UK victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

The Human Rights Act enshrines fundamental freedoms into UK law and allows the British public to challenge abuse, neglect or mistreatment. Its introduction in 2000 triggered positive changes in legislation and public policy UK-wide, ensuring all authorities treat people with fairness, dignity and respect.

Details of the Bill's content have yet to emerge - but all Government plans published to date suggest the "British Bill of Rights" would diminish rights protections for everyone in the UK and some groups in particular, threatening the very concept of the universality of human rights, and allowing politicians to choose which and whose matter most.

Universal, indivisible, inalienable

The pledge reaffirms that human rights are universal, indivisible and inalienable - not a privilege to be given and rationed by any Government. It reads:

"We believe in fundamental human rights and freedoms - shared values that protect every member of the human family and the society we seek to build together.
"Human rights underpin our democracy, hold Governments to account and require that everyone's dignity is equally respected.
"We pledge to oppose any Government plans to repeal our Human Rights Act - in so doing we stand firm on guaranteeing universal human rights protections for generations to come."

Bella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: "These diverse organisations speak as one in defending the Human Rights Act. They join all the devolved administrations, all major opposition parties, Conservative rebels, anti-apartheid activists and thousands of ordinary people in opposing divisive and discriminatory plans to replace human rights with Government-sanctioned privileges. There is a long struggle ahead, but as the chorus of condemnation grows, how much longer can the Government refuse to listen?"

Stephen Bowen, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), said: "Whilst we still await the details, we are saddened the Government is ploughing ahead with plans to scrap our Human Rights Act, the Bill of Rights we already have. Today the British Institute of Human Rights is proud to stand alongside so many who recognise that the hallmark of a genuine bill of rights is its ability to protect everyone when the government doesn't play by the rules, which the Human Rights Act does very well. We urge the Government to scrap these miserable plans."

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said: "Hillsborough shows how vital the Human Rights Act is to ordinary people when all other avenues of justice fail. We mustn't let politicians tear up those hard-won protections. Walking away from the Human Rights Act would also threaten to bring down the crucial peace agreement in Northern Ireland. The government should leave the Human Rights Act alone - it's ours, it's working, it's needed."

Organisations standing against the repeal of the Human Rights Act:

Act for the Act
Action on Elder Abuse
Advice Services Alliance
Advice UK
Age UK London
All Wales People First
Amnesty International UK
Anti-Slavery International
Ashiana Network
Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Asylum Aid
Asylum Link Merseyside
AVA Project
Bail for Immigration Detainees
British Humanist Association
British Institute of Learning Difficulties
Campaign for Freedom of Information
Carers UK
Centre for Criminal Appeals
Centre of European Law and Internationalisation
Children's Rights Alliance for England
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Community Development Cymru
Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research
Detention Action
Disability Law Service
Disability News Service
Disabled People Against Cuts
Discrimination Law Association
Down's Syndrome Association
End Violence Against Women
English PEN
Equal Rights Trust
Fair Trials International
Family Rights Group
Fawcett Society
Freedom from Torture
Friends of the Earth
Friends, Families and Travellers
Garden Court Chambers
Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES)
Grandparents Plus
Greenwich Migrant Hub
Hackney Migrant Centre
Heart n Soul
Howard League for Penal Reform
Human Rights Watch
Imran Khan and Partners
Inclusion London
Index on Censorship
Institute of Race Relations
Integrate Bristol
Judith Trust
Just for Kids Law
JUST West Yorkshire
Latin American Women's Rights Services
Law Centres Network
Legal Action Group
Leigh Day
LGBT Consortium
London Voluntary Services Council
Mary Ward Legal Centre
Medical Justice
METRO Charity
Migrants' Rights Network
Muslim Council of Britain
National AIDS Trust
National Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO)
National Care Forum
National Development Team for Inclusion
Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council
Office of the Older People's Commissioner for Wales
Older People's Advocacy Alliance (UK)
Pembrokeshire People First
Prisoners Advice Service
Privacy International
Public and Commercial Services Union
Quakers in Britain
Race on the Agenda
Refugee Council
René Cassin
Rights Watch (UK)
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Runnymede Trust
Safer Wales
Safety 4 Sisters
Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People
SOAS Student Union
St. Martin of Tours HA
Tai Pawb
Tameside Human Rights Watch UK
Terrence Higgins Trust
The Football Supporters Federation
The Traveller Movement
Together - Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights
Transform Justice
True Voice
UK Families Flight 103
Unlock Democracy
Women Asylum Seekers Together
Welsh Women's Aid
West Norfolk Disability Information Service
West of Scotland Regional Equality Council
Women for Refugee Women
Women's Aid
Women's Resource Centre
York Human Rights City Network
Young Legal Aid Lawyers