The Human Rights Act is the UK law that exists to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected and protected here at home. 

What are human rights?

Human rights are the rights we are all entitled to simply by virtue of being human. These rights ensure that we are all treated with dignity, respect and without discrimination. 

Human rights are based on values such as fairness, respect, equality and dignity but they are more than just nice ideas, they are protected in law. The European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act set out a rule book for how governments must treat individuals. 

Where do human rights come from?

After the horrors of World War II it was recognised that whilst democracy is a partial check on power, it is not enough. The world community came together to agree on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR set minimum standards that protect everyone. A way of ensuring that never again can an elected government decide who matters and who does not. This is the foundation for all human rights law, including the European Convention on Human Rights and our Human Rights Act.

What is our Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act 1998 was passed with cross-party support by parliament; it does not belong to any one particular political party.

Our Human Rights Act takes 16 of the fundamental human rights in the European Convention on Human Rights and pulls them down into our law here at home. 

Some of these rights are what we call, 'absolute' rights meaning they can never be lawfully restricted. Others are 'non-absolute' meaning that they are certain very specific circumstances in which a public official might have to restrict an individual's right. These situations are very specific and have to be to protect the person or others from harm. In a situation where a public body is going to restrict a non-absolute right they must ensure that this is done lawfully, legitimately and proportionately. For example, in a situation where a person is a risk to themselves or others, their liberty might have to be restricted. This must be done according to the law, it must be for a legitimate aim and it must be the least restrictive means possible. 

Social Justice and Human Rights

A significant proportion of BIHR's work focuses on areas traditionally seen as economic and social, such as health, housing, care provision and social support.

We believe the potential of the Human Rights Act, to enable people to flourish across all aspects of their lives, has not yet been realised. We are committed to enabling people to make the best use of their protections and the duties of public officials under the Human Rights Act, using this legal framework to create social change beyond the courtrooms.

Through our work we demonstrate the value of human rights for people in their everyday lives, which also makes unique contribution by demonstrating why the Human Rights Act (and its rights and duties) are important for us all and vital to the UK's position as a modern democracy.

It is fundamental to ensure we tell the positive story of the Human Rights Acts's impact for every one, everyday securing it in the UK's legal framework.

Read more about human rights a tool for social change here.

How does our Human Rights Act work?

The Human Rights Act works in three main ways

What difference does our Human Rights make? 

Too often there is an assumption that the Human Rights Act is only about courts and legal cases. However, the duty on public authorities means that the Human Rights Act sets out to create a culture of respect for human rights. The Act is there to help public officials make difficult decisions and to support people and advocates to challenge decisions which might not be rights respecting.  

We have gathered some stories of human rights changing people's everyday lives and transforming organisations to show the real impact a human rights approach can have.