7 October 2021

What is the Week of Action?

From 10-17 October 2021, the British Institute of Human Rights and other organisations including Amnesty International UKLiberty and Freedom from Torture are holding a Week of Action on Human Rights in the UK. More about why the Week of Action is needed here.

What are BIHR doing?

As part of the Week of Action, BIHR and other organisations such as Amnesty UK and Liberty, are asking activists, both new and experienced, to mobilise and influence their MP to bring attention to this important campaign. As well as working with partner organisations to organise the Week of Action, we wanted to get involved at a grassroots level and ‘practice what we preach’. To read about earlier campaign activities – click here.

Meeting with my MP about human rights concerns

This week marked a milestone for my Week of Action campaigning – on a sunny Monday morning, I had my meeting with Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith. Andy generously gave me a full hour of his time during his constituency surgery. He was easy to talk to and put me at ease instantly. Andy had read the briefing note that I had sent over, which outlined what I wanted to talk about, and the human rights concerns around each bill that the Week of Action campaign is focused on. A huge thank you to our friends at Amnesty for helping me (and over 150 other campaigners!) to prepare. Email [email protected] if you would like a copy of their brilliant briefing note.

Judicial Review and Courts Bill (learn more about this here)

Andy expressed concerns over proposed changes to the Human Rights Act, and the introduction of new legislation that could undermine our human rights as well as our ability to challenge decisions or actions that breach our rights. He agreed that we need to #StopTheRightsRaid. As a keen advocate for human rights, Andy backs the campaign.

Andy served as the Shadow Justice Minister between 2010 – 2016, and is a member of the Justice Select Committee, Miscarriages of Justice All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), and the Legal Aid APPG. With his vast experience in mind, it came as no surprise that he was particularly interested in hearing about my concerns around the Judicial Review and Courts Bill (you can learn more about this here).

I set out why we are worried about changes to Judicial Review and asked what his thoughts on it were. I then asked him if he was willing to speak out during the Second Reading to raise concerns about Part 1 of the Bill which will reduce Judicial Review’s impact and allow public authorities to avoid consequences when they act unlawfully.

Andy said he will be speaking out and will urge other MPs to speak out against these changes too. I took that as my first campaigning success.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (learn more about this here)

We spoke at length on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (learn more about this here). Andy expressed solidarity with the hundreds of civil society organisations and legal academics, cross-party Parliamentarians, former Chief Constables, and UN Special Rapporteurs who have expressed concern at the introduction of this Bill, with many of its measures representing a serious threat to human rights – ranging from the rights to peaceful protest through to racial and other discrimination within the Criminal Justice System. Andy is a member of the Gypsies, Travellers and Roma APPG. He shared his worries around the way that the introduction of the bill disproportionally affects Traveller communities by effectively outlawing their way of life and vowed to oppose it.

The Nationality and Borders Bill (learn more about this here)

We spoke briefly about the Nationality and Borders Bill. I raised my concerns around the apparent disregard for the 8,500 responses to the public consultation on the Home Office’s New Plan for Immigration as around 75% of these responses opposed the Bill, yet it continues to progress. I used the opportunity to shamelessly plug BIHR’s Government consultation project, which he was really interested in.

Andy said that he already intended to vote against the bill at the Third Reading, in line with how he voted at its Second Reading.

The Independent Review of the Human Rights Act (learn more about this here)

Conversation soon turned to the Independent Review of the Human Rights Act. Working at BIHR, I hear stories everyday about how it protects people during their interactions with public bodies. The Human Rights Act is the flagship of the UK’s Human Rights protections. It enshrines our freedoms in UK law, is binding on public bodies and means people can go to UK courts to have their rights upheld. I champion the Act daily. I told Andy about BIHR’s involvement with all aspects of the review and the inquiry into the review, including our submission for the call for evidence which focused on narrow legal questions about the Human Rights Act in the courtrooms and the relationship with parliament which does not reflect 20 years of the HRA’s operation.

I spoke to Andy about the work that we did with Liberty to share lived experiences of using the HRA with the IHRAR Panel, and how we hoped that this had reframed their view of the HRA. I also told Andy about our experiences of the roadshow events, and the regular contact that BIHR, and our friends across civil society have had with the Secretariat.

Andy really listened to my concerns and mirrored my frustrations, promising to speak out against amending or weakening the Human Rights Act as and when he has an opportunity to do so. I also took the opportunity to tell him about our new campaign, Why Our Human Rights Act Matters.

As well as asking Andy to vote in line with our recommendations, and voice his concerns, I asked him to write to the relevant Ministers/Junior Ministers and Secretary of State highlighting our campaign asks – Andy agreed to do this and will be as persistent as I am to get a response! Overall, my meeting went phenomenally well. Andy was on board with the campaign, pledging to do all he can to help. He even asked a kind member of staff to take a picture us for the blog (above)! I was lucky in that I have an MP that didn’t need persuading to do anything. I know that not everyone will have such an easy time, but please do not let that put you off pushing for a meeting. Even if your MP doesn’t share your views, it is still their job to take your concerns seriously as your elected representative.

As we get closer to the Week of Action (next week!), I wish you all the best of luck in influencing your MP to #StopTheRightsRaid and I can’t wait to read all of your tweets about what you get up to.