14 December 2021

The Justice Minister, Dominic Raab MP, has written a piece in The Times announcing plans to “overhaul” our Human Rights Act, to be published today, alongside the long-awaited independent report on our law, started under the previous Minister, Robert Buckland MP, which has remained unpublished since Mr Raab was installed in September’s reshuffle. Sadly, Mr Raab is yet again relying on a specific immigration case from over a decade ago, the law has since changed, the “problem” has been fixed, and in referring to domestic abuse the Minister fails to recognise how our Human Rights Act is one of the very few laws that enables survivors to hold authorities to account for failing to protect them.  

Our Human Rights Act safeguards the rights of every single person in the UK, rights that are about making sure everyone, no matter who they are, is treated with equal dignity and respect. If the government or public bodies overstep the mark, ordinary people can hold them to account in our everyday discussions with those making decisions effecting our lives. Or if needed, people can seek justice in the courts; and whilst judges cannot change the law, the courts decide if people’s human rights have been breached and say this should stop. It is for Parliament to change the law, as it so often chooses to do, when our rights are being risked. Our Human Rights Act respects the democratic system we have in the UK.

 

Speaking about news of the publication of plans to “overhaul” our Human Rights Act, Sanchita Hosali, our Director said:

 

“After months of sitting on the findings of Independent Human Rights Act Review the Government will finally release the report the same day as issuing yet more questions aimed at fulfilling the agenda to “overhaul” our law. At BIHR, we worked with 400 people in our own submission to the Review, and alongside so many others, sent a strong, clear message that our Human Rights Act is working well to safeguard everyone’s rights and help people hold officials to account. Like parliamentarians at the Joint Committee on Human Rights we remain unconvinced that there is any case for change.

 

“Our Human Rights Act, a Bill of Rights in all but name, is both careful and considered, respecting the UK's political traditions where no one should be above the law, including the government, recognising the separate and important roles of parliament and the courts, all of which seeks to ensure democratic accountability.

 

“Our Human Rights Act is not simply a question of legal technicalities, it is about supporting ordinary people to be heard and to reach respectful, dignified decisions that matter in everyday life, whether that is in education or housing, health or care, the local council or a national regulator. Sadly, this lived experience is rarely part of the debate in the UK, conveniently ignored, and yet these are real life stories of how our Human Rights Act is working for people here at home. We hope Mr Raab will show himself to be different; rather than repeating references to an outdated immigration example involving a perpetrator of domestic abuse, if the Justice Secretary is genuinely concerned about violence against women, he could instead focus on hearing from the very many survivors for whom our Human Rights Act offers the only means of getting accountability when they are failed by those who should protect them.

 

“Of course, all governments sometimes find human rights laws inconvenient, because ultimately these are rules that limit their power. What is happening here is something quite different. Just days after CEOs of more than 150 organisations from across the UK called on the Prime Minister to secure our Human Rights Act, those bound by these rules are the ones calling for change, changes to their accountability which they seek to direct. Our Human Rights Act embodies standards that we helped forge in the aftermath of World War II, values which must be more than a romanticised look to the past, values which unite us all now; our Human Rights Act must continue today, tomorrow, and every day"

Further comments to follow, as the plans and reports are published, and following the Minister's statement in parliament. 

Visit our Why Our Human Rights Act Matters pages to see stories and evidence from people across the UK on how they are benefiting from the law, this includes the following: