The British Institute of Human Rights is a charity which was originally established as The Human Rights Trust in March 1970. We were set up to educate the public on human rights, and to work towards securing the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, making them accessible to people within the UK.
In 1998, UK Parliament passed the Human Rights Act, under the banner of “bringing human rights home”. The Human Rights Act has two clear aims:
1. To bring the rights in the Convention into UK law, so that people whose human rights are risked can bring legal action in the UK courts.
2. To help create a culture of respect for human rights in the UK, where human rights are woven into people’s everyday interactions with those who have public power.
At this time, we reformed as the charity the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR). Since the passing of the Human Rights Act, we have worked to secure its second aim: a culture of respect for human rights. Litigation in the courts is important; it holds public bodies to account, provides individuals with accountability and remedies, and develops our understanding of the legal limits of rights. However, courts are also most usually the place for when things have gone very wrong. At BIHR we see the potential of the Human Rights Act to be a practical tool for positive change.
When understood and upheld the legal duties in our Human Rights Act mean that whenever someone seeks to access social housing, healthcare, social care, education, etc. the officials involved must respect, protect, and fulfil people’s human rights. Essentially human rights should be the reference point for every person’s dealing with those who hold public power. In this way our Human Rights Act can have everyday power to support prevention rather than after-the-fact redress. It can be about everyday accountability for people.
For over 25 years BIHR has developed a unique place in the UK, providing practical and accessible human rights support for both people as rights-holders and their community groups, and for those bodies and officials who have legal duties to uphold rights. Through this we help make real the potential of our Human Rights Act to transform the relationship between people and power in their everyday lives.
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