Lockerbie relatives, football supporters and domestic violence survivors among more than 100 groups standing together against Human Rights Act repeal

18 May 2016

A diverse coalition of more than 130 of the UK’s most prominent organisations – ranging from religious and professional bodies to law firms, unions, environmental charities and the families of terrorism victims – have today publicly committed to oppose any attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act.

As the Government confirms its intention to replace the Act with a weaker “British Bill of Rights” in the Queen’s Speech, 137 organisations have pledged to fight the proposals.

The broad and varied group of signatories include charities supporting children, older people, carers, victims of trafficking and slavery, disabled people and asylum-seekers and refugees, as well as national groups representing psychiatrists, teachers, football supporters and students.

Among them are Friends of the Earth, Refuge, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Muslim Council of Great Britain, the National Union of Students, Quakers in Britain, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the TUC, Carers UK, Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, René Cassin, the Down’s Syndrome Association, the Football Supporters’ Federation and UK Families Flight 103 – the group representing families of the UK victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

The Human Rights Act enshrines fundamental freedoms into UK law and allows the British public to challenge abuse, neglect or mistreatment. Its introduction in 2000 triggered positive changes in legislation and public policy UK-wide, ensuring all authorities treat people with fairness, dignity and respect.

Details of the Bill’s content have yet to emerge – but all Government plans published to date suggest the “British Bill of Rights” would diminish rights protections for everyone in the UK and some groups in particular, threatening the very concept of the universality of human rights, and allowing politicians to choose which and whose matter most.

Universal, indivisible, inalienable

The pledge reaffirms that human rights are universal, indivisible and inalienable – not a privilege to be given and rationed by any Government. It reads:

“We believe in fundamental human rights and freedoms – shared values that protect every member of the human family and the society we seek to build together.

“Human rights underpin our democracy, hold Governments to account and require that everyone’s dignity is equally respected.

“We pledge to oppose any Government plans to repeal our Human Rights Act – in so doing we stand firm on guaranteeing universal human rights protections for generations to come.”

Bella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “These diverse organisations speak as one in defending the Human Rights Act. They join all the devolved administrations, all major opposition parties, Conservative rebels, anti-apartheid activists and thousands of ordinary people in opposing divisive and discriminatory plans to replace human rights with Government-sanctioned privileges. There is a long struggle ahead, but as the chorus of condemnation grows, how much longer can the Government refuse to listen?”

Stephen Bowen, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), said: “Whilst we still await the details, we are saddened the Government is ploughing ahead with plans to scrap our Human Rights Act, the Bill of Rights we already have. Today the British Institute of Human Rights is proud to stand alongside so many who recognise that the hallmark of a genuine bill of rights is its ability to protect everyone when the government doesn’t play by the rules, which the Human Rights Act does very well. We urge the Government to scrap these miserable plans.”

Kate Allen, Amnesty UK Director, said:

“Hillsborough shows how vital the Human Rights Act is to ordinary people when all other avenues of justice fail. We mustn’t let politicians tear up those hard-won protections.

“Walking away from the Human Rights Act would also threaten to bring down the crucial peace agreement in Northern Ireland. The government should leave the Human Rights Act alone -  it’s ours, it’s working, it’s needed.”

ENDS.

Notes to editors:

·         For more information, or interviews with Liberty spokespeople, contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656, 07973 831128 or pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk.

Full list of signatories:

Act for the Act

Action on Elder Abuse

Advice Services Alliance

Advice UK

Age UK London

All Wales People First

Amnesty International UK

Anti-Slavery International

Arcadea

Ashiana Network

Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Asylum Aid

Asylum Link Merseyside

AVA Project

Bail for Immigration Detainees

BIHR

Bindmans

Birthrights

British Humanist Association

British Institute of Learning Difficulties

CAJ

Campaign for Freedom of Information

Carers UK

Centre for Criminal Appeals

Centre of European Law and Internationalisation

Children's Rights Alliance for England

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Community Development Cymru

CPAG

Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research

Detention Action

Disability Law Service

Disability News Service

Disabled People Against Cuts

Discrimination Law Association

Down's Syndrome Association

ECPAT UK

EMMAUS

End Violence Against Women

English PEN

Equal Rights Trust

Fair Trials International

Family Rights Group

Fawcett Society

Freedom from Torture

Friends of the Earth

Friends, Families and Travellers

Garden Court Chambers

Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES)

Grandparents Plus

Greenwich Migrant Hub

Hackney migrant Centre

Heart n Soul

Howard League for Penal Reform

Human Rights Watch

ILPA

Imran Khan and Partners

Inclusion London

Index on Censorship

INQUEST

Inspire

Institute of Race Relations

Integrate Bristol

Judith Trust

Just for Kids Law

JUST West Yorkshire

Justice

Kalayaan

Latin American Women's Rights Services

Law Centres Network

Legal Action Group

Leigh Day

LGBT Consortium

Liberty

London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association

London Voluntary Services Council

Mary Ward Legal Centre

Medconfidential

Medical Justice

METRO Charity

Migrants' Rights Network

Muslim Council of Britain

National AIDS Trust

National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO)

National Care Forum

National Development Team for Inclusion

NICEM

Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council

NSUN

NUS

Office of the Older People's Commissioner for Wales

Older People's Advocacy Alliance (UK)

PALG

Pembrokeshire People First

Prisoners Advice Service

Privacy International

Public and Commercial Services Union

Quakers in Britain

Race on the Agenda

Refuge

Refugee Council

René Cassin

Reprieve

Rights Watch (UK)

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Runnymede Trust

Safer Wales

Safety 4 Sisters

Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People

Shelter

SOAS Student Union

St. Martin of Tours HA

Statewatch

Stonewall

Tai Pawb

Terrence Higgins Trust

Thameside Human Rights Watch UK

The Football Supporters Federation

The Traveller Movement

Together – Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights

Transform Justice

True Voice

TUC

UK Families  Flight 103

UNA-UK

UNISON

UNITE

Unlock Democracy

Welsh Women’s Aid

West Norfolk Disability Information Service

West of Scotland Regional Equality Council

Wish

Women Asylum Seekers Together

Women for Refugee Women

Women@thewell

Women's Aid

Women's Resource Centre

York Human Rights City Network

Young Legal Aid Lawyers