Opinion Former Article

Over 40 charities sign statement defending human rights and access to law

Over 40 human rights-focused organisations and 10 leading experts have come together to launch a joint statement to oppose any attempt by the UK Government to restrict access to human rights laws, or to the law more generally through judicial review, which they warn could represent a devastating blow to everyone’s ability to guarantee their rights and freedoms against the state.

The position statement says:

'While every system could be improved, and protecting rights and freedoms for all is a balancing act, our Human Rights Act is a proportionate and well-drafted protection for the fundamental liberties and responsibilities of everyone in this country.'

'The Act guarantees the rights to free speech and expression, to life, to liberty, to security, to privacy, to assembly, and to freedom of religion or belief. It prohibits torture and guarantees fair trials and the rule of law.'

'Judicial review is an indispensable mechanism for individuals to assert those rights and freedoms against the power of the state. Any government that cares about freedom and justice should celebrate and protect these vital institutions and never demean or threaten them.'

It is signed by organisations such as Index on Censorship, Article 19, the British Institute of Human Rights, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Disability Rights UK, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, English and Scottish PEN, the Equality Trust, Equally Ours, the Howard League for Penal Reform, the National Aids Trust, the Prison Reform Trust, the Race Equality Foundation, Race on the Agenda, the Rainbow Project, Reporters without Borders, René Cassin, the Women’s Budget Group, the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group, and Unlock Democracy.

It follows last week’s announcement by the UK Government that it has launched a new panel to examine the case for reforming judicial review – the power that allows citizens to legally challenge a decision of the Government or another public body. The former Attorney General has also suggested that further reforms to the judiciary and human rights settlement are likely to be considered by the Government, and might include vetting the views of judges before appointing them and introducing a British Bill of Rights instead of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Secretary of State for Justice has also indicated he may consider if the UK could depart from international human rights case law. Each of these reforms could make it harder for citizens to challenge the Government if they believe that their rights have been violated and risks a chilling impact on our constitutional settlement.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The Human Rights Act and the right to judicial review mean ordinary people, no matter their background or social status, have legal guarantees against interference from an overweening state. We are delighted to have coordinated this joint statement in defence of these fundamental pillars of our society, and to issue an open invitation to all those who want to join us in expressing their support for freedom and justice to do so.’ 

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

View the new website and full list of signatories: https://humanrightsact.org.uk/

Sign Humanists UK’s petition: https://humanism.org.uk/what-you-can-do-to-help/protect-judicial-review/

Read more about our work on human rights: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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