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Human Rights Day - Garden Court Chambers signs open letter to the Prime Minister and political leaders to stand by the Human Rights Act

Thursday 10 December 2020

On global Human Rights Day Garden Court Chambers alongside over 110 groups from across the UK issue an open letter to the Prime Minister and political leaders, urging them to respond proportionately to Covid-19, protect people’s rights and the rule of law, and to stand by the Human Rights Act.

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In the week that the UK Government launches a review of the Human Rights Act; today, over 110 organisations have issued and open letter to the Prime Minister and political leaders across the UK urging them to stand with them for the “shared values of equal dignity, respect, fairness and decency; to protect people’s rights and the rule of law, to stand for the Human Rights Act.” 

Issued on the 10 December, global Human Rights Day, the open letter highlights the extraordinary events of 2020, and in particular the pandemic, noting that “human rights must not be an afterthought in times of crisis; human rights were born of disaster and must guide the Covid-19 response and recovery”.  

The open call to stand firm on the human rights of all people across the UK comes from grassroots groups, local charities, international organisations, professional bodies and statutory Commissioners, health and care providers, lawyers, and support groups. From community groups in York to household names like Amnesty International and Marie Curie, from social work associations to dementia charities like Alzheimer’s Scotland, to self-led disability groups like All Wales People First to the Law Society of Northern Ireland; the message is clear; human rights matter for us all. 

Together the groups note “Too many people have suffered disproportionately, including BAME communities, older people, disabled people, children, women, carers and more.” It notes that the UK’s Human Rights Act contains “rights which belong to us all … to life, liberty, freedom from harm, non-discrimination, family, wellbeing, and choice.” These “powerful” tools have been ”under-used” in the response to the pandemic; the response must “protect the equal human dignity of us all, and human rights legislation offers a way to navigate this maze, to balance risk with rights.”

The open letter is coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights. Speaking on the release of the open letter, BIHR Director, Sanchita Hosali said:

“This year we’ve all witnessed just how important our rights are, may of us have felt sharply what family rights means, our wellbeing has been tested, we’ve faced restrictions on our liberty, and measures which have discriminated. Even, or especially in the grips of this pandemic, we can do better than blanket “do not resuscitate” orders placed the medical files of disabled people and children; better than the disproportionate use of police powers against BAME communities; better than leaving older people abandoned in care homes, many with dementia unable to remember their loved ones after almost a year apart.” 

“Our Human Rights Act, rather than being reviewed, needs to be used for the purpose it was intended; to help us build a culture of respect where every institution and decision-maker thinks about all of our rights how to balance these in proportionate ways that keep us safe and well whilst respecting our dignity. That is the kind of decent society the Human Rights Act can help us achieve. Today, over 110 organisations spanning the length and breadth of the UK recognise this; we see the difference our Human Rights Act can make for people in everyday ways that make all of our lives better. In these most difficult of times, our Human Rights Act can help navigate the maze of uncertainty, securing the accountable and people-focused exercise of power we all need.”

On a day in which the global community marks the importance of human rights, over 110 groups across the UK will “stand together, proud of our human rights standards in the UK, but worried that political rhetoric is again turning towards questioning our laws, with increasing concerns that people’s ability to seek accountability will be reduced.” They call on the Prime Minister and political leaders to “stand with us for the dignity of all people, for respect, fairness and decency; for a proportionate response to these extraordinary times that focuses on protecting people’s rights and the rule of law. To stand with us for our Human Rights Act.” 

The open letter, coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights, is publicly available here

The 10 December marks global Human Rights Day. On this day in 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) following WW2. In the preamble to the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, the Council of Europe reaffirms the UHDR aim of securing universal and effective observance of human rights. The UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 creates legal duties that bring these Convention rights into UK law and makes the enforceable here at home. 

The British Institute of Human Rights is a registered charity working across the UK to achieve social change through human rights by working directly with people, communities and public bodies to change practice and amplify this evidence of human rights in action to influence policy. 

The Human Rights Day open letter has been signed by 114 organisations so far:

British Institute of Human Rights

Access Social Care

Advocacy Focus

AIRE Centre

All Wales People First

Alzheimer Scotland

Alzheimer’s Society

Amnesty UK

Article 12 in Scotland

Article 39

Asylum Link Merseyside

AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)

Birthrights

brap 

Bristol Mind

British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

Campaign for Freedom of Information

Carers UK

Centre for Women’s Justice

Certitude London

Changing Our Lives

Child Rights Alliance for England

Children in Scotland

Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales

Childrens Law Centre

Choice Support

Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights

Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)

Compassion in Dying

Detention Action

Disability Wales

Discrimination Law Association

EachOther 

End Violence Against Women

English Pen

Every Child Protected Against Trafficking

Friends, Families and Travellers

Garden Court Chambers

Grandparents Plus

Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland

(the ALLIANCE)

HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network

Helen Bamber

HIV Scotland

Hourglass

Human Rights and Equality Group of the Law Society of Northern Ireland

Human Rights Consortium Scotland

Human Rights Watch

Humanist Society Scotland

Humanists UK

Inclusion London

INQUEST 

Judith Trust

Juno Women’s Aid

Just Fair

Just for Kids Law

JUSTICE

Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS)

Law Centres Network 

Learning Disability England

Legal Action Group

Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG)

Leigh Day

Liberty

Marie Curie

Mary Ward Legal Centre 

Mental Health UK

Migrants Organise Ltd

Mind 

n-compass

National Alliance of Women’s Organisations

National Care Forum

National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) 

National Survivor User Network (NSUN)

nia 

Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People's Commissioner for Wales

POhWER

Prison Reform Trust

Public Law Project

Quakers in Britain

RAMFEL (Refugee & Migrant Forum of Essex and London)

REDRESS

Refugee Action York

Refugee Council

Relatives & Residents Association

René Cassin

Restorative Justice for All International Institute

Rethink Mental Illness

Scottish Care 

Scottish Commission for People with Learning

Disabilities (SCLD)

Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance

Scottish Pen

Shared Lives Plus

SMK Law Solicitors

Southall Black Sisters

Stonewall

Suffolk Law Centre

Tai Pawb 

The British Geriatric Society

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation 

The Law Society of Scotland

Tower Hamlets Law Centre

UNISON 

Unlock Democracy

Voiceability

Voluntary Organisations Disability Group

Wish

Women's Aid

Women’s Budget Group

York Human Rights City Network

Youth Access

ForcesWatch

ROTA – Race on the Agenda

tide – together in dementia everyday 

Turning Point

 

A version of this press release was first published by The British Institute of Human Rights on 10 December 2020.

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