Thursday, 22 September 2016

Concern that plans to scrap Human Rights Act will lead to less protection

A report produced by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) with input from more than 175 civil society organisations, shows that the UK Government has failed to fully meet 81 out of 85 recommendations made by the United Nations in 2012 to improve domestic human rights protections.

BIHR’s 55-page report, which will be submitted to the UN on 22 September as part of the Universal Periodic Review process to which all 193 member countries are subjected every four and a half years, looks at 85 of the 132 UN recommendations, covering areas such as children’s rights, violence against women, discrimination and criminal justice. BIHR found that the vast majoirty of recommendations had not been fully met.

The ‘Joint Civil Society Report’ is the result of eight consultation events and a call for evidence, engaging over 175 bodies ranging from local community advocacy groups to large national organisations, working on issues such as health, older people, children, justice, education and welfare. It presents overwhelming evidence that the UK has failed to make progress on the majority of the recommendations made by the UN in 2012. In some areas, such as adequate standard of living, the situation has even got worse.

The report will be launched at an event on Thursday evening (22 September) at which David Isaac, new Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Harriet Harman QC MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, will both speak.

The impact of cuts to welfare benefits and legal aid reforms have emerged as key factors which now put people’s human rights at risk in Great Britain. And a key concern raised by civil society is the threat posed by the Government’s position to “scrap” the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new bill of rights, which groups believe will lead to less protection of human rights.

The report also notes some key differences between the devolved governments and the UK Government, such as positions on the Human Rights Act, commitment to international children’s rights, and the differences in applying welfare benefit reforms. The UN’s recommendations are to the UK Government, as the State Party, but are also to devolved nations where applicable.

Says Stephen Bowen, Chief Executive of BIHR:

The UK Government needs to listen, not just to the United Nations but to the voices of the huge range of organisations closer to home that have shared their serious concerns with the British Institute of Human Rights. They are troubled the Government is taking the UK towards further isolationism and disregarding the United Nations, worsening the situation with welfare and legal aid cuts, and wanting to scrap the Human Rights Act, weakening its accountability for our rights at home as well as internationally.

Notes for Editors

The British Institute of Human Rights is a UK-wide independent human rights charity. Established for over 40 years, BIHR helps people to know what human rights are and are not, to put their human rights into practice to achieve positive change in everyday life without resorting to the courts and to make sure those in power respect our human rights laws and systems. For more information, visit

This report has been produced by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) as part of the Human Rights Check UK project. The report will be submitted to the United Nations on 22 September 2016 as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UK. The UPR is a UN process that all 193 member countries go through every 4.5 years to review their domestic human rights situation, and set recommendations for future progress. Civil society groups can submit evidence reports which assist the UN when questioning senior government officials at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UK is about to enter its 3rd UPR. The BIHR provides a vital contribution to ensuring that the UK Government is accountable at an international level.

BIHR will launch its Joint Civil Society Report with a discussion chaired by its Chair, Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights, at Broadway House, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NQ from 6-8pm on Thursday, 22 September.

Further Information: For further information, a copy of the report or to attend the launch event, please contact BIHR on [email protected]