Weekly Human Rights News: 12-05-23
This week’s human rights news includes a new team member and an update on the new Public Order Act.
We urged Parliamentarians to stop the Refugee Ban Bill
We joined over 170 organisations led by Liberty in urging Parliamentarians to stop the Illegal Migration Bill (better known as the Refugee Ban Bill). Our joint statement, published on Wednesday 10th May, highlights our concerns that the Bill attacks “the very core of human rights” and “separates people into categories of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ of human rights”.
We continued our workshops for senior NHS staff
This week we continued our work on our Practice Leads programme for staff working in Children's and Young People's Mental Health Services (CAMHS) inpatient settings in England. The programme is funded by NHS England and aims to build a network of staff who are upskilled in human rights law and committed to making change in children and young people’s mental health services. There are 10 workshops and each week BIHR trainers and our Lived Experience Experts cover different issues identified by Leads. We are currently preparing Workshop 8 on the right to liberty with a focus on restraint and prescription. We will be asking staff to think about unconscious bias and looking together at the Restraint Reduction Network’s Restraint Inequalities Toolkit. If you’d like to run a Human Rights Practice Leads course in your organisation you can find out more here Human Rights Training for Public Bodies & Services (bihr.org.uk) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked what participants like about being on the course, Lynn said: “Clarifying and being with people who value human rights so highly in their work and are committed to focusing on this despite complexities and challenges.”
News from Elsewhere
The Council of Europe released its annual report
On Friday 5th May, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General published her annual report. The Council of Europe is the birthplace of the European Convention on Human Rights. In her report, the Secretary General called particular attention to SLAPPS (strategic lawsuits against public participation), which you can read more about in National Union of Journalists’ blog on Why Our Human Rights Act Matters. SLAPPS are lawsuits used to prevent journalists, academics or whistle-blowers publishing stories on matters of public importance and the Commissioner highlighted “several alerts concerning SLAPPs brought in the United Kingdom, where legal costs are the highest in Europe and only few can afford to defend a defamation case”.
The report also included a call from the Commissioner for Human Rights for the UK to “take urgent measures to combat child poverty by addressing structural shortcomings in the welfare and benefits system and tackling food insecurity and inadequate housing among children.” You can find out more about human rights and the cost-of-living crisis in our video series from the RITES Committee.
People were arrested on King Charles’ coronation day
On Saturday 6th May, King Charles was coronated – which is a religious ceremony where a new monarch takes an oath and is blessed by the Archbishop. It was expected that there would be protests on the coronation day – particularly from republican groups (people who believe we shouldn’t have a royal family and the Head of State should instead be elected).
On the day, police in London arrested 64 people because of concerns they were going to disrupt events. Six people were arrested for “going equipped to lock on” (carrying equipment that could be used to attach yourself to people, buildings or objects). This is a new offence that was created by the Public Order Act 2023 and only came into law on Wednesday 3rd May.
The police’s actions and the Public Order Act have raised concerns about restrictions on the right to protest, which are protected under Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 11 (freedom of association and assembly) of the Human Rights Act.
The House of Lords gave the Refugee Ban Bill its Second Reading
On Wednesday 10th May, the House of Lords had the first opportunity to discuss the Refugee Ban Bill. Find out about Second Readings and the law-making process here. Lots of organisations got in touch with the Lords beforehand to raise concerns with the Bill; you can read a joint briefing from organisations across the UK on FLEX’s website.
The Liberal Democrats Lords wanted to reject the Bill altogether and refuse to progress it through the House of Lords but Labour Lords said they were worried that if they did that, the Government would try and put the Bill through without the Lords’ permission (using the Parliament Acts) which would mean they couldn’t make any changes to it.
The Bill passed its Second Reading, which means the Lords will now put forward and vote on changes to the Bill.
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