Responding to the announcement in today’s Queen’s Speech that the Government will introduce proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a “British Bill of Rights,” Amnesty International said the move was “very worrying.”
Amnesty has written to the Justice Secretary Michael Gove to set out its concerns about any repeal of the Act and to register the strength of feeling about what is seen as a clear threat to human rights. The organization has already placed two-page crowd-funded advertisements about the importance of the Human Rights Act in the Times and the Daily Telegraph this week, with more than 2,000 members of the public personally donating sums of £5 and upwards to pay for the adverts in less than a week.
Meanwhile, more than 82,000 people have already signed an Amnesty petition calling for the Human Rights Act to be kept (see www.savetheact.uk).
The Government has previously indicated that it might also opt to withdraw the UK from the European Convention of Human Rights – a key regional human rights treaty established in direct response to the horrors of the Second World War. If the UK withdraws from the Convention it would become one of only two countries in Europe which is not a party to the treaty – the other being Belarus, which has a notoriously poor human rights record.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:
“It’s very worrying that the Government seems hell-bent on tinkering with or even completely replacing such an important part of our human rights protections.“Any move to scrap the Act would be a real blow for human rights in this country and around the world.“Repealing the Human Rights Acts could represent the single biggest roll-back of rights in recent British history.“Ordinary people across the world are still fighting for the rights we enjoy in the UK – we must not let politicians take away these hard-won rights at the stroke of a pen.”
The Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights
The Human Rights Act makes 16 freedoms and protections legal entitlements, including the right to a fair trial and to be free from torture. Instances of its use include a woman who had been subjected to domestic violence who was able to be reunited with her children, and an elderly couple able to use the Act to argue that they should be allowed to live together in the same care home after they were threatened with separation after 65 years of marriage.
Despite some claims and misperceptions, only 1.8% of pending cases at the European Court of Human Rights involve the UK, whilst more than 60% involve Russia, Ukraine, Italy or Turkey.