Key human rights issues in the UK
The UK's human rights come under review
The human rights record of every country in the world comes up for scrutiny at the UN Human Rights Council every five years, in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The process gives a formal role to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Amnesty International, and we take the opportunity to contribute to the reviews of as many countries as possible. The hope is that other states will make strong recommendations to the country under review, encouraging action to improve human rights. If the country accepts the recommendations, we can hold them to their promises. Even if it does not accept them, the fact that another state expresses concern can increase longer-term pressure.
At the UN, states check out the UK’s human rights performance – and find we could do better. The UK’s turn to be reviewed came in May 2017, and for us this was a golden opportunity to draw attention to key human rights issues: above all, the need to maintain a strong domestic legal framework to protect and promote human rights.
Here is a summary of Amnesty International's submission for the UN Universal Period Review.
Government has attempted to weaken the rules that protect human rights
- Government has aired proposals to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
- It has cut legal aid in civil cases, blocking access to justice for some of the most vulnerable people.
- It has disregarded decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
- It must not scrap the Human Rights Act.
Security measures contravene international human rights standards
- The new Investigatory Powers Act legalises bulk interception and hacking of online communication by the government, encouraging disproportionate interference with rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
- The government uses diplomatic assurances to avoid its obligations not to send people to countries where they are likely to be tortured.
Women can be criminalised for terminating a pregnancy
In Northern Ireland a woman can be imprisoned for life for terminating a pregnancy – a procedure freely available on the NHS to women elsewhere in the UK.
Successive governments have failed to hold UK businesses, organisations and its own agencies to account for human rights abuses.
- The long-promised inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and ill-treatment of detainees in the ‘war on terror’ will not be independent. It is to be carried out by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, whose membership and activities are largely controlled by the Prime Minister.
- The government has yet to establish a comprehensive investigation of all allegations of human rights abuses during the armed conflict in Northern Ireland.
- UK companies can evade criminal liability for serious human rights abuses abroad, even if they result from illegal acts in the UK.
UK has adopted laws and policies designed to 'create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants' - Theresa May
This environment affects anyone suspected of being here without permission, whether or not that is actually the case. abuses.
- Recent legislation and policy changes have co-opted landlords, hospitals and schools into immigration control.This includes denying people access to housing and health care or passing personal data to immigration authorities, based on suspicion about a person’s immigration status.
- Thousands of people – including torture survivors and people with serious mental illness – are held in immigration detention with no fixed time limit.
- Since 2012, overseas domestic workers have had their immigration status tied to their employer, making them especially vulnerable to abuse.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.