Human Right Group Liberty is among those who have warned that the decision to scrap the Human Rights Act could have dire consequences
Among the 38 bills being announced by the government today in the Queen’s speech, is a bill to replace the Human Rights Act with a new bill of rights. The former is a crucial piece of legislation that allowed so many to hold the state to account and seek justice. It’s a sad day for our democracy and yet another shameless power grab by this government.
Human Right Group Liberty is among those who have warned that the decision to scrap the Human Rights Act could have dire consequences and is ‘part of this Government’s much broader plan to increase its own power, remove itself from public accountability and to fundamentally change the relationship between the individual and State’.
The human rights membership organisation says that Raab’s proposed Bill of Rights – expected to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech today, will ‘dismantle the system which currently protects us all and is used by thousands of people every year to enforce their rights – from soldiers, to disabled people, to journalists’.
It adds: “Raab’s plan risks eroding our right to live dignified lives, while also reducing protections against the State spying on us, protest rights, and protections for vulnerable people”.
The group also warns that the Government wants to remove safeguards that make it harder for them to make regulations that are fundamentally unfair or that breach human rights law.
The Human Rights Act had placed all state bodies under a legal obligation to respect human rights. If they were in breach it would be possible to take them to court, yet the government’s proposals would make it much harder to challenge public bodies.
As a result of its repeal, it could make it harder to challenge police when they fail to investigate violence against women and girls, and could also block bereaved families and victims from seeking truth and justice.
The Independent also reports that an expert on EU law has warned that the UK risks sanctions from the EU if it waters down human rights protections, as people are increasingly forced to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), ‘as they did before the HRA’s introduction in 1998, raising the prospect of repeated fines for the UK government from the Strasbourg judges’.
An exclusive letter reported on by the Guardian which has been signed by more than 50 organisations has also warned of severe consequences if the Human Rights Act were repealed, including removing obligations to properly address violence against women and girls and destabilising peace in Northern Ireland.
Liberty’s Director, Martha Spurrier, said of the campaign: “Scrapping the Human Rights Act poses a real, imminent threat to rights in the UK. It’s a blatant, unashamed power grab from a Government that wants to put those in power above the law. They are quite literally rewriting the rules in their favour so they become untouchable.
“The Human Rights Act has empowered people in the UK to enforce their rights in practice. It has enabled people to challenge unlawful policies, be treated with dignity by public authorities and secure justice for their loved ones. It has changed the way that we are treated in schools, hospitals and care homes, improving everyday life for people across the country.
“The Government’s plan is to weaken and undermine this, taking power away from the public to take for themselves. We all know this Government cannot be trusted to keep its word or play by the rules. We’re urging everyone to not let them get away with this looting of our rights. Speak up and make your voice heard.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward