UK: JUSTICE condemns legislation to repeal Human Rights Act
The Bill of Rights will severely weaken rights protection in the UK, cause unnecessary legal uncertainty, have serious consequences for the devolved settlements and Good Friday Agreement and is inconsistent with our international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, JUSTICE has said.
The human rights organisation’s view is that the Human Rights Act has been operating well for many years, enabling ordinary individuals to enforce their rights in UK courts and hold public authorities to high standards, whilst maintaining parliamentary sovereignty.
It said the government is seeking to pick and choose when human rights can be applied and in what context. For example, by setting new complicated legal tests, it is seeking to reduce the scope of positive obligations, where victims of crime have challenged the police for inadequate investigations and seriously unwell hospital patients have challenged negligent care. This , it said, will undermine a human-rights based approach to public services which we all benefit from. Other measures, including the proposed permission stage for human rights claims will only increase the length, cost and complexity of human rights litigation for claimants and public body defendants, it added.
Several of these proposals, such as restricting domestic human rights claims relating to overseas military obligations and further restrictions on individuals’ ability to rely on their private and family life rights in deportation cases, will not only have a huge impact on individuals but are inconsistent with our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. This will only lead to a significant increase in cases against the UK being brought in Strasbourg, rather than being determined in UK courts and tribunals, undermining a key part of the rationale for this legislation.
JUSTICE added that the legislation actually has many examples of the government seeking to restrict what UK judges can consider when deciding human rights cases.
Furthermore, given the centrality of the ECHR to the Good Friday Agreement, the proposals could have significant consequences for the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.
JUSTICE chief executive, Fiona Rutherford said: “The legislation announced today has no compelling evidence base behind it but risks increasing legal uncertainty and therefore costs, our devolved settlement, the UK’s international law obligations, and the everyday rights protections people in this country rely upon. At a time when there is war in Ukraine, victims left waiting for years in our criminal justice system, and a cost-of-living crisis, it is extraordinary that the government have decided to prioritise such a divisive and ill-thought out piece of legislation. This is surely the first Bill of Rights in history brought by a government that seeks to limit the human rights of those it governs.”