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Weekly Human Rights News: 12/04/2024

This week’s human rights news includes another free awareness-raising workshop with Dudley Voices for Choice, updates on our London Communities Human Rights Programme, a European Court of Human Rights judgement on 3 climate change cases from Portugal, France, and Switzerland, and successful challenge of Home Office decisions on the reunion of families in Gaza.

We ran a free Awareness Raising Workshop with Dudley Voices for Choice

As part of BIHR's Community Programme 2022-2025, we're delivering free awareness-raising workshops to a variety of community groups in April to support them to know their human rights. The second one took place on Tuesday with Dudley Voices for Choice! Dudley Voices for Choice is a user-led charity that supports people with learning disabilities and autism to speak up for themselves.

In Tuesday's workshop, we talked about the Human Rights Act and how it can help people to speak up for their rights in conversations with public services. We then looked at the right to private and family life, home, and correspondence and shared a story of a couple who were prevented from getting married by their carer, and how they used their rights to challenge this. The workshop was delivered in Easy Read format.

Participants on the workshop described it as 'insightful', 'important', and 'a great introduction'.

We are shortlisting for our London Communities Human Rights Programme

This week we are shortlisting for our London Communities Programme. Alongside Just Fair, we are offering 4 community or voluntary organisations up to 3 years of funding to work with us to support human rights based approaches in communities in London.

As human rights organisations we know the difference direct human rights support makes to organisations facing discrimination and disadvantage in London. We will work closely with our 4 chosen organisations supporting them to use human rights law in their everyday work to create practical, real-world change.

Interviews are the 22nd and 23rd of April. If you have missed this deadline for this part of the programme, you can use this webpage to find out about other support offers including resources available currently and events coming up over summer or join our mailing list.

News from Elsewhere

The European Court of Human Rights found a lack of action to tackle climate change breached human rights

On Tuesday 9th April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) handed down judgments in three climate change cases.

Two of the cases were found to be inadmissible by the ECtHR for different reasons. The first was brought by 6 young people in Portugal who argued that lack of action on the Paris agreement (an international treatment on climate change) breached their right to life, right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment, and right to respect for private and family life by failing to limit emissions, as well as their right to be free from discrimination as climate change will have a bigger impact on younger generations. The court found this inadmissible, not because human rights weren’t relevant, but because the young people had not used all their legal options in Portugal first. The second case was brought by a former mayor in France who had been living in an area expected to be vulnerable to climate-change-induced flooding by 2040. He argued that France was breaching his right to respect for private life, however he had since moved out of the affected area. The ECtHR also found his case to be inadmissible because they considered him to no longer be a victim of a human rights issue (i.e. personally affected) as he didn’t have a significant connection with the affected area.

The third case was brought by Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz (“Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland”) and four individual women (all over 80 and with health problems exacerbated by heatwaves) against the Swiss Government. They said failing to take steps to meet obligations under the Paris Agreement breached their right to life, right to private and family life and right to a fair trial. The ECtHR said the individual women couldn’t show that they were victims of the issue because they couldn’t show that they were particularly exposed or at risk of being exposed to the negative effects of climate change to “a degree of intensity giving rise to a pressing need to ensure their individual protection”. However, it recognised that the organisation, Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland, was “a vehicle of collective recourse aimed at defending the rights and interests of individuals against the threats of climate change in Switzerland” and that climate change is a “common concern of humankind”. The ECtHR therefore said the organisation was able to bring the case on behalf of its members. The ECtHR said the right to private and family life had been breached because Switzerland failed to meet its positive obligations to take action on climate change. It had not taken appropriate and timely steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as through measuring greenhouse gas emissions. The ECtHR also said that the right to a fair trial had been breached because Swiss courts had dismissed the organisation’s case without considering it properly and there were no other avenues available. The ECtHR decided it didn’t need to look at the right to life and whether the failure to combat climate change could have life-threatening consequences as this was “more questionable” and the ECtHR had already found breaches under the right to private life.

Read the judgment here.

Find out more about the ECtHR here.


Families successfully challenged the Home Office on reunion applications

This week, a judge reviewed the Home Office’s decisions on reunion applications from families in Gaza.

The Home Office had refused to make decisions on family reunion applications from families in Gaza without having biometric data. Biometric data is information which allows a person to be identified, such as fingerprints and photographs. The court said this was a disproportionate interference with families’ right to respect for family life, and the government department had reached “irrational and unreasonable” conclusions to justify their decision not to consider families’ reunion applications.

Judges also found that parts of the Home Office’s guidance did not respect the right to respect for private and family life. The ‘unsafe journeys’ policy guidance requires people to show that they “face dangers beyond their current situation that exist in the area where they are located and along the route where they would need to travel to reach a [Visa Application Centre] to enrol their biometrics]. Judges felt this requirement was unnecessary in light of the context of the conflict in Gaza.

Read the judgment here.

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