UK’s Human Rights Act ‘Under Attack’

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The government have launched a review into the 1998 Human Rights Act, a decision which Labour has described as ‘bonkers’.

The UK government has launched an independent review of the Human Rights Act. The controversial assessment will decide whether it is working effectively in domestic courts and if there is room for improvement.

The Human Rights Act protects a range of rights from the right of family and marriage, to freedom of expression.

With the ongoing pandemic, the government should be protecting people’s human rights not attempting to devalue them.

The act is a lifeline for thousands of vulnerable people who are mistreated and neglected. It allows people to seek justice against those who breach the right to equality, life, liberty and personal security.

These are a few examples covered by the act which the government are now attempting to weaken, in a review which could see them place themselves above the law.  The Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto claimed that the UK was, and would continue to be, a ‘beacon of freedom and human rights.’

A political attack

Yet just two months ago at the Conservative Party Conference, the Home Secretary announced her plans to stop ‘endless legal claims’ and deny asylum to those entering the UK illegally – a statement which has caused dismay amongst human rights groups.

The government insists the review will only look at the framework of the Human Rights Act. [Image: Peter Nicholls]

Priti Patel also claimed the system would be “fair and compassionate towards those who need our help”, but a strategy which devalues the right to protection is anything but compassionate and fair.

The current timing of the review has caused a wave of criticism; the ongoing pandemic means the government should be protecting people’s human rights not attempting to devalue them. This is echoed by the Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy, who said: “It is bonkers that the government is prioritising launching an attack on human rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no need for a review of the rights and freedoms that underpin our democracy and all of us enjoy.”

The government states the whole purpose of the review is to assess the structural framework of the Human Rights Act, rather than the rights individually. However, statements made by Boris Johnson seem to contradict the intention of the government by suggesting human rights cases burden the criminal justice system. Back in October, he stated the courts were “being hamstrung by lefty human rights lawyers.”

Potential Affect on Immigration

The proposed review threatens the rights of those seeking asylum in the UK. This year alone, 7,000 people have risked their lives crossing the Channel. Often fleeing persecution and war, people rely on their human rights for safety and the right to life. Migrants who are forcefully detained in UK detention centres will also become more vulnerable.

Amnesty International UK has called out the government for not understanding its own immigration system, director Kate Allen said: “It is shameless for her to imply the UK has some exemplary record in providing sanctuary.

“Many of this country’s European neighbours- even more so several poorer and less stable countries further away- continue to do more than the UK in providing a home to people forced to flee tyranny.”

Amnesty International reiterate the viewpoint of many campaigners, who feel the review of the Human Rights Act will be a step backwards in holding the government to account. The 1998 Act offers individuals in the UK strong protection, one which has been used successfully to fight for justice against some of the most neglectful crimes. As highlighted by Kate Allen these include: “Hillsborough and Grenfell, to the appalling mishandling of the recent Covid crisis in care homes”

The review of the Human Rights Act will be a step backwards in holding the government to account.

Families of the Hillsborough 96 were able to use the Human Rights Act to fight for justice. The Human Rights Act enabled the families of those who died to fight for a proper inquest. The act exposed the truth: that mistakes made by police led to their deaths.

Many people often feel that the Human Rights Act, in general, is an Act which will never apply to them. But the successful breakthroughs of justice highlight just how important it is to protect.

[Header image: LCHR ]