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Weekly Human Rights News: 17-11-23

This week’s human rights news includes our Human Rights Open Day in Shoreditch and an update on the Rwanda case.

We celebrated Advocacy Awareness Week!

On Wednesday 15th November, BIHR and Just Fair hosted our second Human Rights Open Day as part of our London Communities Human Rights Programme. The aim of the programme is to support community and voluntary groups to understand and use human rights law in their everyday lives and work. We were joined by representatives from a wide range of community groups, working on everything from housing to birthing rights to asylum support. 

Senior Human Rights Officer Charlotte gave an introduction to the UK’s Human Rights Act while Just Fair’s Human Rights Officer Laura discussed economic, cultural and social rights. Participants had the opportunity to share the human rights issues they see in their communities and we discussed how the PANEL human rights approach could be used to approach these.  

The day finished up with information on how to apply to be a community partner for our five-year project to build and implement human rights resources. 

We’ll be hosting two more open days in London in January 2024.

We talked to civil society organisations about the European Convention on Human Rights

BIHR works as part of a coalition of organisations committed to protecting human rights in the UK. At our most recent meeting, our CEO Sanchita joined the group to share her expertise on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and how it works in the UK. She tackled important topics including the two instances in which countries have left the ECHR and the vital function of interim measures. 

News from Elsewhere

Please be aware that the external human rights news BIHR shares weekly contains difficult and potentially triggering issues. This week’s triggers include asylum and detention cases.

The UK Supreme Court said the Rwanda policy is unlawful 

The UK-Rwanda asylum agreement would have meant people seeking asylum in the UK could be sent to Rwanda to have their claims processed there instead. In June 2023, the UK Court of Appeal said the agreement was unlawful because problems with Rwanda’s current asylum system means there is a risk people would have their claims wrongly rejected and be sent back to countries where they are at risk of inhuman treatment. This would breach their Article 3 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act (HRA). The UK Government appealed to the UK Supreme Court, who on Wednesday 15th November said the Court of Appeal was right and the policy is unlawful. The Supreme Court did emphasise that it’s not just because of the ECHR and HRA that the policy is unlawful – saying that the principle that people shouldn’t be returned to countries where they may be persecuted is “given effect not only by the ECHR but also by other international conventions to which the United Kingdom is party. It is a core principle of international law, to which the United Kingdom government has repeatedly committed itself on the international stage, consistently with this country’s reputation for developing and upholding the rule of law.” It has also “been given effect in our domestic law by a number of statutes enacted by Parliament.“ The Supreme Court also said the lower courts should have given more weight to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s evidence because of its expertise in the area. 

Read the judgment 

Read our CEO’s statement 

It was the anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights’ first judgment 

On 14th November 1960, the European Court of Human Rights handed down its first ever judgment. It was a “preliminary” judgment, which is a judgment on factors of a case that need to be decided before the full case can be heard – such as background details or whether a case should even be heard in court. The case was brought by Mr Lawless, who had been detained by authorities in Ireland because they suspected he was part of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). At the time, there was a law in Ireland that gave authorities the power to detain people suspected of being in the IRA for an indefinite period of time even without a trial. Mr Lawless said this was a breach of his Article 5 right to liberty and Article 6 right to a fair trial. The preliminary judgment dealt with procedural issues and the case proceeded to a full hearing, at which it was decided that while Mr Lawless’ rights had been breached, Ireland was acting under emergency circumstances and so was entitled to limit as necessary certain rights (even absolute rights, which cannot normally be limited) under the Article 15 “derogation” clause. Some rights, like the Article 3 right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and the Article 4 right to be free from slavery and forced labour, can never be derogated, even in emergencies. 

Read the judgment 

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