JUSTICE & others call on Prime Minister to rethink Ministerial commitment to the rule of law

JUSTICE today (26 November 2015) joined a group of leading UK law reform and human rights organisations in urging the Prime Minister to reverse changes to the Ministerial Code which remove an unambiguous obligation for Ministers to respect international law in all that they do.

On 15 October 2015, amendments were made to the Code, which had reflected the “overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations and to uphold the administration of justice and to protect the integrity of public life.”   The new revised Code omits any reference to international law, treaty obligations or the administration of justice.

The former Attorney General, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP (Vice-Chair of JUSTICE) has confirmed that the change sends a ‘very bad signal’.  Former FCO Legal Adviser Sir Frank Berman KGMC QC has reacted to the change with ‘a sense of disbelief at what must have been the deliberate suppression of the reference to international law.’

This change is particularly worrying in light of the pre-election commitment made by the Conservative party to this amendment, in The Protection of Human Rights in the UK (October 2015), which explained the party’s commitment to repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998.  It stated that amendment of the Ministerial Code would be important in this context, in order to ‘remove any ambiguity in the current rules about the duty of Ministers to follow the will of Parliament in the UK’.

Read the full letter signed by JUSTICE, Liberty, Rights Watch UK, the British Institute of Human Rights, Child Rights Alliance England and the Howard League for Penal Reform.

The letter was reported in the Guardian in the context of the legal case for airstrikes in Syria, read the full article.