UK Government responds to UPR recommendations
Date: 2nd October 2017
Category: Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The UK Government has been criticised by human rights groups and the UN Human Rights Council for only supporting 42% of UPR recommendations.
The UPR recommendations came from the UN's review of the UK's record on human rights. The UK Government have only accepted 96 of the total 229 recommendations - representing 42% - whilst the average across other nations is to accept 67% of recommendations. The government has chosen to "note" the remainder. Along with other organisations, Together are calling for greater engagement across the UK from the UK Government in taking forward the UPR recommendations.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established in 2006 and is the process through which the United Nations Human Rights Council (a body of 47 UN Member States, currently including the UK) examines the human rights records of all UN Member States approximately every four years. It provides the opportunity for each State to explain what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their country, and to fulfil their human rights obligations. The review concludes with the UN issuing recommendations to the State.
The UK last underwent the UPR in May 2012, following which it accepted, fully or in part, 91 out of 132 UN recommendations.
The 2017 UPR
Among the recommendations that the government has declined to back, a number outline the need for the UK to limit how long someone can be held in an immigration detention centre. The UK is the only European country without such a time limit.
Britain has also declined to support recommendations on the detention of children in immigration centres.
Together and partners are also disappointed that the UK Government has not accepted the UPR recommendation to safeguard the Human Rights Act - the Scottish Government has previously made it clear that it opposes any attempt to undermine the Act.
David Isaac, on behalf of the National Human Rights Institutions, warned the UN that the post-Brexit landscape threatens a further deterioration in standards. Although historically Britain has been a champion of human rights, "That reputation is now under threat, due to the negative tone of debate from some politicians and many parts of the media around the Human Rights Act, and the potential risk to people's equality and human rights protections when the UK leaves the European Union," he said.
"The international human rights system provides greater protection for those rights, but the UK government's continued refusal to fully incorporate the UN treaties it has signed shows scant regard for its international commitments. We are disappointed by the lack of leadership on human rights across the UK government."
The Human Rights Consortium Scotland joined together with other civil society organisations, including Together, the British Institute of Human Rights, and Just Fair, to also express disappointment at the government's position. Sanchita Hosali, acting director of the British Institute of Human Rights, said:
"If the UK is to maintain its stance as a global champion of rights, we must welcome and embrace scrutiny of our human rights record here at home. It is disappointing that our government is only willing to support 42% of the UPR recommendations, and certainly does not compare favourably with other countries."
The Scottish Government will shortly publish a separate response to the UN recommendations which many organisations hope will be more positive and progressive. The Scottish Human Rights Commission urged the Scottish Government to continue to 'show leadership' on human rights.
A focus on children's rights
Together with partners across England, Wales and Europe have issued a statement raising child rights issues across the UK during the UK UPR adoption.