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Human Rights Day 2022: Community Mobilisation

On 8 December 2022, The British Institute of Human Rights celebrated Human Rights Day with a virtual event to launch our new programme of support to help community groups. The event featured speakers from some of the incredible community organisations we have worked with over the last year.

Our online event

Our CEO, Sanchita Hosali, explained BIHR’s work and one of our central messages which is that our Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), currently under threat because of the Rights Removal Bill (which you can read more about here), is a great preventative tool. We can use human rights in a practical way, without needing to resort to the courts.

Imran Khan KC

Sanchita then handed over to Imran Khan KC who chaired the event. Imran is a lawyer who, in representing the family of Stephen Lawrence, relied on the HRA to challenge the institutional racism that led to police failures in investigating Stephen’s death. He explained that pre-HRA it was very difficult for individuals and communities to enforce their rights, but the Act gave them something they could point to. He explained that the HRA isn't just about lawyers representing people, but about all of our interactions with public bodies.

Hopscotch Women's Centre

Imran then invited Isabelle Terrisson and Fairuz Choudhury from Hopscotch, an organisation which provides a range of services to Black and minoritised ethnic women, including services related to housing, mental health, and domestic violence. Hopscotch co-designed a human rights toolkit with BIHR to support the women they work with. Since implementing the toolkit, their work has become faster, and staff have become much more confident in using human rights arguments. Fairuz explained, ‘We haven't had to go to court because as soon as we cite the Human Rights Act articles and how it's affecting the person, within 2 days, [the relevant public authority will] come back with a positive answer.’

Pembrokeshire People First

We then heard from Sian Huntley and Lucy Hinksman from Pembrokeshire People First, a campaigning group run by and for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. They explained that working with BIHR on some of our Easy Read resources, and as members of the RITES Committee, ‘has really, as far away from power as [they] may be, made [them] feel empowered and feel [their] voices are being heard not just at a local level, but a national level’.

Scottish Recovery Consortium

Sian and Lucy were followed by Tom Bennett from the Scottish Recovery Consortium, an organisation which takes a rights-based approach towards creating sustainable recovery from substance abuse in Scotland. BIHR worked with SRC to develop for people working in lived experience recovery organisations across Scotland. Tom spoke about the power of human rights knowledge: ‘So much of the treatment within the drug and alcohol context is so often in breach of the HRA but nobody says anything, no complaints are made, because we don’t know enough about human rights protections.’

Our Policy Work

Having heard from some of the organisations we work with, our Head of Policy and Programmes, Carlyn Miller, spoke about our parliamentary work, which is currently focused on resisting the Rights Removal Bill (a Bill which seeks to repeal and replace the HRA). Carlyn explained that this work is often unseen and uncelebrated, and sought to highlight that BIHR has been working with parliamentarians to amplify the voices of those with lived experience of relying on the HRA. BIHR aims to ensure that parliamentarians are speaking out against the dangerous and discriminatory Bill and standing firm on our Human Rights Act. You can write to your own MP in order to resist the Rights Removal Bill here.

Our Communities Programme

Carlyn then passed over to Lauren, one of BIHR’s Human Rights Officers, to discuss our new 2023 Community Programme. Lauren explained that the aim of the programme is to strengthen the agency and voice of community and voluntary groups to address social justice issues using human rights. As part of this Programme, we are running Awareness-Raising Workshops for communities. These are free, online, 90-minute workshops which will run across March and April 2023. You can find out more and apply for the workshops (in both plain language and easy read) here.

Imran's Closing Speech

Following a short Q & A, Imran delivered some closing remarks. He stressed that whilst ‘MPs don’t always support principles, they do support people’. He shared the details of a harrowing case where a woman was shot by her abusive partner and died due to what is believed to be a police failure. He explained that had this case occurred in a post-HRA era, the woman’s family could have held the police accountable under Article 2 (the right to life). Instead, they were left without redress.

Imran finished by stating that the Human Rights Act cannot be destroyed – ‘we ought to celebrate it, not denigrate it’.

The Impact of Human Rights

During the event, our community representatives talked about the impact using human rights and working with BIHR has had on them and the people the work with. For example:

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