On global Human Rights Day 110 groups from across the UK issue an open letter to the Prime Minister and political leaders, urging them to respond proportionately to Covid-19, protect people’s rights and the rule of law, and to stand by the Human Rights Act

In the week that the UK Government launches a review of the Human Rights Act; today, over 110 organisations have issued and open letter to the Prime Minister and political leaders across the UK urging them to stand with them for the “shared values of equal dignity, respect, fairness and decency; to protect people’s rights and the rule of law, to stand for the Human Rights Act.”

Issued on the 10 December, global Human Rights Day, the open letter highlights the extraordinary events of 2020, and in particular the pandemic, noting that “human rights must not be an afterthought in times of crisis; human rights were born of disaster and must guide the Covid-19 response and recovery”.  

The open call to stand firm on the human rights of all people across the UK comes from grassroots groups, local charities, international organisations, professional bodies and statutory Commissioners, health and care providers, lawyers, and support groups. From community groups in York to household names like Amnesty International and Marie Curie, from social work associations to dementia charities like Alzheimer’s Scotland, to self-led disability groups like All Wales People First to the Law Society of Northern Ireland; the message is clear; human rights matter for us all.

Together the groups note “Too many people have suffered disproportionately, including BAME communities, older people, disabled people, children, women, carers and more.” It notes that the UK’s Human Rights Act contains “rights which belong to us all … to life, liberty, freedom from harm, non-discrimination, family, wellbeing, and choice.” These “powerful” tools have been” under-used” in the response to the pandemic; the response must “protect the equal human dignity of us all, and human rights legislation offers a way to navigate this maze, to balance risk with rights.”

The open letter is coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights. Speaking on the release of the open letter, BIHR Director, Sanchita Hosali said:

“This year we’ve all witnessed just how important our rights are, may of us have felt sharply what family rights means, our wellbeing has been tested, we’ve faced restrictions on our liberty, and measures which have discriminated. Even, or especially in the grips of this pandemic, we can do better than blanket “do not resuscitate” orders placed the medical files of disabled people and children; better than the disproportionate use of police powers against BAME communities; better than leaving older people abandoned in care homes, many with dementia unable to remember their loved ones after almost a year apart.”

“Our Human Rights Act, rather than being reviewed, needs to be used for the purpose it was intended; to help us build a culture of respect where every institution and decision-maker thinks about all of our rights how to balance these in proportionate ways that keep us safe and well whilst respecting our dignity. That is the kind of decent society the Human Rights Act can help us achieve. Today, over 110 organisations spanning the length and breadth of the UK recognise this; we see the difference our Human Rights Act can make for people in everyday ways that make all of our lives better. In these most difficult of times, our Human Rights Act can help navigate the maze of uncertainty, securing the accountable and people-focused exercise of power we all need.”

On a day in which the global community marks the importance of human rights, over 110 groups across the UK will “stand together, proud of our human rights standards in the UK, but worried that political rhetoric is again turning towards questioning our laws, with increasing concerns that people’s ability to seek accountability will be reduced.” They call on the Prime Minister and political leaders to “stand with us for the dignity of all people, for respect, fairness and decency; for a proportionate response to these extraordinary times that focuses on protecting people’s rights and the rule of law. To stand with us for our Human Rights Act.”

Dowload the letter as a PDF here. 

Notes

  • The 10 December marks global Human Rights Day. On this day in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) following WW2. In the preamble to the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, the Council of Europe reaffirms the UHDR aim of securing universal and effective observance of human rights. The UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 creates legal duties that bring these Convention rights into UK law and makes the enforceable here at home.

  • The Human Rights Day open letter has been signed by over 110 organisations:
  1. British Institute of Human Rights
  2. Access Social Care
  3. Advocacy Focus
  4. AIRE Centre
  5. All Wales People First
  6. Alzheimer Scotland
  7. Alzheimer’s Society
  8. Amnesty UK
  9. Article 12 in Scotland
  10. Article 39
  11. Asylum Link Merseyside
  12. AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)
  13. Birthrights
  14. brap
  15. Bristol Mind
  16. British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
  17. Campaign for Freedom of Information
  18. Carers UK
  19. Centre for Women’s Justice
  20. Certitude London
  21. Changing Our Lives
  22. Child Rights Alliance for England
  23. Children in Scotland
  24. Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales
  25. Childrens Law Centre
  26. Choice Support
  27. Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights
  28. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
  29. Compassion in Dying
  30. Detention Action
  31. Disability Wales
  32. Discrimination Law Association
  33. EachOther
  34. End Violence Against Women
  35. English Pen
  36. Every Child Protected Against Trafficking
  37. Friends, Families and Travellers
  38. Garden Court Chambers
  39. Grandparents Plus
  40. Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)
  41. HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network
  42. Helen Bamber
  43. HIV Scotland
  44. Hourglass
  45. Human Rights and Equality Group of the Law Society of Northern Ireland.
  46. Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  47. Human Rights Watch
  48. Humanist Society Scotland
  49. Humanists UK
  50. Inclusion London
  51. INQUEST
  52. Judith Trust
  53. Juno Women’s Aid
  54. Just Fair
  55. Just for Kids Law
  56. JUSTICE
  57. Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS)
  58. Law Centres Network
  59. Learning Disability England
  60. Legal Action Group
  61. Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG)
  62. Leigh Day
  63. Liberty
  64. Marie Curie
  65. Mary Ward Legal Centre
  66. Mental Health UK
  67. Migrants Organise Ltd
  68. Mind
  69. n-compass
  70. National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
  71. National Care Forum
  72. National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
  73. National Survivor User Network (NSUN)
  74. nia
  75. Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People's Commissioner for Wales
  76. POhWER
  77. Prison Reform Trust
  78. Public Law Project
  79. Quakers in Britain
  80. RAMFEL (Refugee & Migrant Forum of Essex and London)
  81. REDRESS
  82. Refugee Action York
  83. Refugee Council
  84. Relatives & Residents Association
  85. René Cassin
  86. Restorative Justice for All International Institute
  87. Rethink Mental Illness
  88. Scottish Care
  89. Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD)
  90. Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
  91. Scottish Pen
  92. Shared Lives Plus
  93. SMK Law Solicitors
  94. Southall Black Sisters
  95. Stonewall
  96. Suffolk Law Centre
  97. Tai Pawb
  98. The British Geriatric Society
  99. The Challenging Behaviour Foundation
  100. The Law Society of Scotland
  101. Tower Hamlets Law Centre
  102. UNISON
  103. Unlock Democracy
  104. Voiceability
  105. Voluntary Organisations Disability Group
  106. Wish
  107. Women's Aid
  108. Women’s Budget Group
  109. York Human Rights City Network
  110. Young Legal Aid Lawyers
  111. Youth Access
  112. ForcesWatch
  113. ROTA – Race on the Agenda
  114. tide – together in dementia everyday
  115. Turning Point
  116. Rightful Lives