Robes, rods and our basic human rights

UPDATE: 11.30am, 28 May 2015

Thank you – nearly 7,000 of you emailed your MP in less than 24 hours to ask them to defend the Human Rights Act in the Homes Affairs debate on the Queen’s Speech today.

This action is now closed as the Home Affairs debate is currently in progress – you can watch it live to see which MPs take a stand for human rights.

Is the Queen’s Speech one of the oddest parliamentary moments of the year? Lords and Ladies in their robes, the Royal family in ceremonial dress (anyone know why the Queen wears white? Would a king also?), Blackrod wandering around and knocking on the door that has just been slammed in his face.  Although I didn’t realise that the Lord Chancellor carries the speech in a giant purse… you learn something new every day!

And from this giant purse came the speech that the Queen then delivered. There is much in it that we are reacting to but the one that could have the widest impact is the proposal for a British Bill of Rights.

Proposals are normally seen as a good thing. But this one is like gearing yourself up for the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ speech and watching in horror as your partner bends their knee and holds out a ring.

Why are the government so concerned about tinkering with or even replacing large parts of our human rights protections? My rights protect me from the state, protect me from politicians and officials making bad decisions – and they protect you too. They put obligations on all parts of the state – local government, the police, the health service and more - to actively ensure that my rights are protected.

And that’s the reality of the Human Rights Act. Whilst some like to focus on the most extreme cases, everyday it protects people like Jan, helping her get extra care support. Or Mr & Mrs Driscoll, forced apart after 65 years because their human right to a family life was ignored. And thousands more – as each case means countless people’s lives are made better without a public campaign or court battle.

We still don’t know the detail of a British Bill of Rights, I imagine this will come over the next few weeks/months, but if the last proposals from the Conservative party are anything to go by they will weaken our protections.  

So this proposal, for me and the hundreds of thousands of people who have been campaigning to Save the Human Rights Act, is simply unwelcome.

If you have seen today’s papers you will know that the battle to save the Human Rights Act will be a long one, and that the negative stories and fearmongering have already started again. Don’t be fooled by it. The Human Rights Act protects all the people shown on the front page of the Sun. I don’t see why actors don’t have a valid voice in these debates. And why aren’t the voices of ordinary people who have used the Human Rights Act, like Jan, splashed across the newspapers?

So here at Amnesty HQ we’re gearing up for the fight. We know that there is a long road ahead but we are determined to continue to stop any government from weakening our rights protections.

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.
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