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UK: LEADING RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS WARN PRIME MINISTER AGAINST ‘DIRE CONSEQUENCES’ OF SCRAPPING HUMAN RIGHTS ACT

Ahead of the upcoming Queen’s Speech, on 10 May, when plans to repeal and replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) are expected to be announced, AOAV and over 50 other human rights organisations have signed a letter in an urgent appeal to the Prime Minister. The letter warns that repealing the Act will have dire and widespread consequences for the UK, both domestically and internationally. 

In December 2021, the government announced plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. The government claimed this proposed bill would grant greater freedom and protection to public authorities such as the police, and give more freedom to the press regarding privacy claims. 

On the contrary, and along with many other organisations, AOAV believes that replacing the HRA would undermine both international rights systems and the UK’s role as a human rights advocate on the international stage. If the UK could turn its back on international standards of human rights, so could any other country, and mechanisms for holding governments accountable to international standards of human rights would be severely eroded. The choice to compromise the most important international human rights mechanism in Europe will set a precedent for other governments, and will weaken the UK’s legitimacy and ability to promote human rights compliance internationally. 

The letter also details the domestic consequences of repealing the HRA, including subverting the delicate peace in Northern Ireland, and removing the “positive obligations” that ensure public authorities, such as the police, have duties to abide by the obligation to protect and can be held accountable for their failings.

Human rights organisations across the UK are calling for an urgent meeting to have their concerns heard, and we await the Prime Minister’s response. 


Amnesty International UK 

PRESS RELEASE 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WEDNESDAY 3 MAY 2022 

UK: LEADING RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS WARN PRIME MINISTER AGAINST ‘DIRE CONSEQUENCES’ OF SCRAPPING HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 

More than 50 orgs write to Prime Minister with urgent appeal to meet including Amnesty, Liberty and the British Institute of Human Rights  

International human rights systems, the fragile peace process in Northern Ireland and police duty to protect women and girls highlighted as under threat from proposals 

Letter comes ahead of Queens Speech when plans to repeal and replace the Act expected to be announced 

‘Tearing up the Human Rights Act will unleash a Pandora’s Box of dire consequences for the UK and we desperately urge the Prime Minister to reconsider’ – Sacha Deshmukh 

The UK’s leading human rights organisations have joined together to voice their unanimous concern about the Government’s proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act, in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made public today (3 May). 

More than 50 organisations from across the human rights, equality and civil liberties sector including Amnesty International, Liberty, The British Institute of Human Rights, Stonewall, Friends of the Earth, End Violence Against Women Coalition and Freedom from Torture, signed the letter calling for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister citing three primary areas of concern. 

The three major implications of the proposals highlighted in the letter are; that such a move will undermine international law and damage the UK’s reputation and ability to act as a human rights advocate on the global stage; that repealing the Act risks breaching the Good Friday Agreement and threatens the delicately balanced peace settlement in Northern Ireland; and that it would remove the current obligations on police to properly investigate violence against women and girls, making it even harder for victims to challenge police failings at a time when public confidence in that area is already in crisis. 

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, said: 

“Tearing up the Human Rights Act will unleash a Pandora’s Box of dire consequences for the UK and we desperately urge the Prime Minister to reconsider.  

“Not only will repealing the Human Rights Act damage the UK’s international reputation, but it will also undermine the global system of rights and protections and our ability to hold other countries to account, just at a time when we have never needed those protections more. 

“The Human Rights Act is a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement and pulling that pilar away makes the fragile peace there even more unstable. 

“It’s also deeply alarming that the Government would choose to remove any obligations on the police to effectively investigate violence against women and girls, at a time when public confidence in that area is already in crisis. 

“The Human Rights Act is the most significant piece of rights legislation in the UK and it plays an absolutely vital role in ensuring stability, justice and protection at home and abroad. This is no time to replace it with a watered-down substitute.” 

Undermining international law and the UK’s reputation 

The letter warns that UK degradation of the European Court and proclamations that a ‘democratic shield’ is needed against Strasbourg, echo and risk legitimising similar attitudes and behaviours from countries such as Russia, Hungry and Poland. The letter also warns that in the context of the invasion of Ukraine and the abuses taking place, the UK damages its own ability to insist on human rights compliance and observance of international law when publicly taking steps at home which undermine the most important international human rights mechanism in Europe. 

Destabilising peace in Northern Ireland 

The letter warns that any significant change or amendment to the Human Rights Act risks breaching the Good Friday Agreement and the delicately balanced peace settlement. The letter further warns that any threat to the fragile peace will be of serious concern internationally, including to the US administration. 

Removing obligations to properly address violence against women and girls 

The signatories state their deep concern about plans to remove ‘positive obligations’ which have been crucial to progress work to tackle violence against women and girls in the UK, including abortion rights in Northern Ireland. 

The letter reminds the Prime Minister that it is through the Human Rights Act that public authorities such as the police have duties to abide by these obligations to protect and can be held to account for their failings. The letter cites the example of the successful judicial review brought under the Human Rights Act which found failures by the police to properly investigate the serial sex offender John Worboys, who went on to attack at least 105 women. 

ENDS

Amnesty media contact information:

Harriet Garland: harriet.garland@amnesty.org.uk

Out of hours: 07721 398984: www.amnesty.org.uk

Amnesty International is the world’s leading human rights organisation with more than ten million supporters worldwide