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Weekly Human Rights News: 17-03-23

This week’s news includes updates from our community workshops and a High Court finding that the Justice Secretary breached the right to liberty.

We ran an awareness-raising workshop with dates-n-mates

As part of our new Community programme, we’re running awareness-raising workshops for groups across the UK to talk about how human rights can be used every day to address social justice issues. 

This week, we hosted a workshop for staff and members at dates-n-mates – Scotland's national dating and friendship agency run by and for adults with learning disabilities. We covered key rights like the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to private and family life and the right to be free from discrimination. 

Dates-n-mates described it as a “really interesting, accessible and engaging workshop”.

We blogged about the Second Reading of the new Anti-Refugee Bill

On Monday 13th March, MPs came together to debate and cast their votes for the first time - for or against - the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, better known as the Anti Refugee Bill. MPs voted that the Anti-Refugee Bill should proceed to the next stage, with 313 for and 251 against. 

At BIHR, we have huge concerns about the Bill removing vital human rights protections for people. We got in touch with all MPs ahead of the vote asking them to stand firm on human rights law and vote against the Bill. 

Head to our blog for a summary of some of the concerns about the Bill raised by MPs with clips from the debate. 

We talked to Rethink about human rights advocacy

Senior Human Rights Officer and former Advocate Katrin ran a workshop with Rethink – an advocacy service that helps people when decisions are being made about their health and social care. 

Participants said they were “leaving today’s session with clarity and understanding of human rights applications” and that they will take away the message, “don’t settle for less than you know is right”. 

News from Elsewhere

The Court of Appeal granted people seeking asylum permission to appeal in the Rwanda case 

In December 2022, the High Court ruled that the Rwanda policy (which would allow the Home Office to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda to have their cases heard there) is legal. In January, the Court granted some of the people bringing the case permission to appeal the decision on limited grounds. 

On Tuesday 14th March 2023, the Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal on extra grounds. These include whether the High Court applied the right test to decide whether the Home Secretary carried out a thorough enough assessment of Rwanda’s asylum policy; whether the High Court was right to say that the Home Secretary’s information on Rwanda was adequate; whether the High Court applied the right test to see if people’s Article 3 right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment was at risk; and whether the High Court properly considered arguments that the Rwanda policy breaches the Refugee Convention (an international agreement the UK has signed to protect the rights of people seeking asylum). 

Read the judgment 

A woman was granted a new investigation into her daughter’s death 

In 2017, Jodey Whiting died by suicide after her disability benefit payments were stopped because she missed a work capability assessment. Jodey had been receiving disability benefits for more than 10 years and told the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) she hadn’t received a letter about the assessment. The decision to stop her benefits was overturned five weeks after Jodey died. There was an investigation into her death but it only lasted 37 minutes and didn’t look at whether DWP’s decision contributed to her death. 

Although the Court of Appeal did not agree that the DWP had a duty to protect Jodey’s Article 2 right to life, it has said it is “in the interests of justice” for a coroner to consider “any link or connection between the withdrawal of the welfare benefits and her mental state in the period leading up to Jodey’s death”. 

Source: Leigh Day 


The High Court found the Justice Secretary breached the right to liberty in relation to Parole Board rules 

The Parole Board is the department that makes decisions about when people who have served their minimum term in prison can be released. As part of the decision-making process, they receive reports from Prison and Probation staff. 

Last year, the Justice Secretary Dominic Raab changed the rules so that staff couldn’t say in their reports whether they thought people in prison should be released. He instead made a rule where his opinion would be the only one presented to the Board. 

The High Court said this unlawfully interfered with people in prison’s Article 5 right to liberty. In particular, Article 5(4) says that where people are being detained, they have the right to have their cases heard by an independent court. By trying to stop the Parole Board hearing opinions different from his own, the Justice Secretary undermined that independence, and his intentions were “improper and incompatible” with the right. 

The Court said that the Justice Secretary’s rule could have made the staff writing reports breach their legal obligations (by stopping them including recommendations even if the Parole Board had told them to). It also said it “may well have resulted in prisoners being released who would not otherwise have been released and in prisoners not being released who would otherwise have been released.” 

Read the judgment 

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