The dangers of scrapping the Human Rights Act

At a fundamental level, human rights are an assertion of protection from the government and a claim for the protection of the government. Power has the potential for good and ill, which is why power must be regulated and laden with responsibility. Christopher Grayling’s proposals for the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights are, in many ways, a case of “trust me, I’m a Minister”.

States around the world, many with more balanced political systems than our own, enshrine human rights standards in constitutions and Bills of Rights that are intended to stand above the shifting palette of party political fortune. In the United Kingdom, with a constitution to be divined rather than read, the European Court and its judgements have been a fundamental source of human rights protection for us all.

I doubt that the attack on human rights proposed today will affect me personally. Provided, that is, I remain of sound mind, enjoy good health until I die and other good fortune besides. Clearly, I hope my children and their children will be similarly blessed.

Others won’t be. The verbiage that sets out the proposals inevitably puts up the usual bogies that are all too easily derided and dismissed – foreign criminals, hate preachers and Travellers amongst them. I fear that there’s a big ‘who else?’ in the background – even if the current government is self-effacing enough to confine its public ire to a limited but headline-grabbing few.

Perhaps most worryingly, by claiming the right of “trust me”, the proposals deliberately try to undermine a continent-wide source of redress and hope. The system isn’t perfect, the European Court isn’t perfect and some of its judgements are challenging – for organisations like Amnesty, as well as the UK government. However, its decisions and their complex relationship with domestic courts are a tangible protection for men and women in the darker places of Europe. Protection that today’s proposals would irreparably harm but cannot replace.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
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.
View latest posts
4 comments

A powerful, heartfelt piece. I feel though we need more than this. What about giving some examples of people who have benefited from the protection of the Human Rights Act?

chrisdavidchapman 3 years ago

Hi Chris, glad you enjoyed it. You might find this article interesting: <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/eight-reasons-why-human-rights-act-has-made-uk-better-place-british-bill-of-rights">Eight reasons why the Human Right Act makes the UK a better place</a>

Rachel CromeStaff 3 years ago

I presented Wirksworth Local Group's 2014 AGM motion urging a general election campaign against Human Rights Act repeal that Conference overwhelmingly accepted. We strongly support Tim's grave concern for the UK's vulnerable if the Conservatives scrap the Act, but his ending about "protection for people in the darker places of Europe" seems a little ambiguous. Yes human rights can be rough in former soviet states, but the UK has many black situations, & Cameron & Grayling's statements shout loud & clear the battle awaiting us.
As well as the Act's overarching power respecting all other relevant laws, & its Section 6 protection of us all via public authorities' duty to conform to the Convention rights, the following benchmark cases heard under the Act show its direct protection of UK citizens & residents.
1. PROTECTION & CENTRAL AMNESTY ISSUES:
Asylum seekers: subsistence (Adams, Limbela: Convention Article 3); their children's right to family life (Z, Tanzania: Art. 8); potential for degradation of failed seekers awaiting deportation (HA, Nigeria: Art. 3).
Foreign citizens imprisoned without trial (Belmarsh cases: Arts. 5, 6).
Police accountability re reports of slavery (OOO: Art. 4); & to investigate degradation (Black Cab rapist cases: Art. 3 & HRA Section 6.
Protest & police proportionality during demos (Fairford & other demos: Arts. 10 & 11).
Military human rights accountability when we have control abroad (Arts 1, 2, 3 & HRA S. 6: AI-UK's Baha Mousa case & hundreds still deadlocked while our courts & the MOD negotiate).
2. POPULATION-WIDE PROTECTION:
NHS accountability for life & against degradation: several hundred settlements heard under the HRA: (Arts 2, 3 & HRA S. 6, Mid Staffs & other hospitals).
Revolutionising UK Inquest law: The House of Lords Colin Middleton prison suicide case eventually influenced the Coroners Act 2009, introducing augmented inquests that look into circumstances of the death & not simply (as for centuries) its medical cause. Hillsborough is an iconic situation, but last March all the publicity at the Enquiry's re-opening & end of 25 years of police lies raised no media mention (even in The Guardian) that these are Article 2 Inquests originating with the HRA.
This silence shows how public ignorance is maintained about the HRA's value, & the examples above show how its repeal is a central AI-UK issue. We strongly need a robust election campaign reflecting the strength of the Edinburgh vote

Hilary Gray 3 years ago

it is good

kimhoaaau 3 years ago