Why we must oppose Dominic Raab’s staged demolition of the Human Rights Act

This latest attack on our human rights should be viewed within the context of Raab’s own long running, 12 year campaign against the Human Rights Act.

Dominic Raab

Our human rights are under attack from the current government. Whether it be our right to protest, our citizenship rights or right to vote without having to show ID, a steady stream of bills have been bought forth by this government which undermine our most basic rights.

And now to top it all off, the justice secretary Dominic Raab, has put forth proposals that would aggressively roll back our hard-won human rights.

Raab wants to overhaul the Human Rights Act, that key piece of legislation that allows public authorities to be challenged when they get things wrong, and replace the law with a new ‘bill of rights’.

The proposals have been rightly condemned as an ‘unashamed power grab’ by campaigners and a “threat to how and when we can challenge those in power”. Raab says that his proposals would allow the government to stop foreign offenders asserting their rights to a family life to stop deportations.

Yet the plans have already faced criticism from the intelligence and security agencies MI5, M16 and GCHQ, who have told ministers that changes to the Human Rights Act could make it harder for them to defend cases in courts. The legal community has widely condemned the proposed changes.

Amnesty International has said in response to the plans that ‘human rights are not sweets in a sweet shop for Ministers to pick and choose from.’

They added: “Human rights laws and standards are hard-won, built from historic struggle and impassioned campaigning – politicians of the day must not be allowed to redefine rights based on which the Government likes and which it does not.

“Hillsborough, Mid Staffs, a proper inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic – when it comes to righting wrongs, the Human Rights Act is the most important tool in the box.”

It’s also worth pointing out that under current laws, foreign criminals can already be deported in the public interest, even where there are arguments against this from the right to family life. 

So what’s driving the proposed changes? The real answer isn’t any legal necessity but rather rhetoric from right wing Tories who seen it as a means of distraction from their own incompetence. It is under the guise of countering ‘wokery and political correctness’ that Raab has so openly declared war on the Human Rights Act, yet claims against wokery and political correctness cannot be the basis for diluting our rights.

This latest attack on our human rights should be viewed within the context of Raab’s own long running, 12 year campaign against the Human Rights Act.

Raab has spoken openly about the disdain he has for the law he is now so keen to overturn. Footage from 2009 shows him claim: “I don’t support the Human Rights Act and I don’t believe in economic and social rights.”

There’s no other motivation for the proposed changes than the attempt by the government to redefine rights based on what laws the government likes and it doesn’t like. The government wants to put itself above the law.

That is why we must do all we can to oppose Raab’s attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act, for it means that ordinary citizens who are victims of unlawful decisions by the state will be severely weakened in being able to challenge the injustices done to them.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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