JUSTICE on a ‘British Bill of Rights’

JUSTICE responds to the Prime Minister’s announcement on repeal of the Human Rights Act.

JUSTICE is committed to ensuring that human rights are protected and respected by each of the institutions of Government in the UK. Individuals should have a right to an effective remedy in our domestic courts for violation of those rights and, in practice, should enjoy each of the substantive human rights enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN human rights treaties to which the UK is a party.

The Human Rights Act (HRA) performs the core functions of a bill of rights for the UK. There is no evidence-based argument for change to the substantive and procedural guarantees in the Act.

The protection of individual rights and respect for international obligations are cornerstones of modern democracy, designed to protect us all from the excesses of unrestrained executive power. The protections of the ECHR mirrored in the HRA are woven into our constitutional arrangements, in the devolution settlements for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Tinkering with our constitutional framework for the protection of individual rights will do little to address myths and political anxieties about the scope of these most fundamental of guarantees. It would undermine the ability of the UK to speak credibly about human rights and the rule of law on the global stage.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement on repeal of the HRA, Andrea Coomber, Director of JUSTICE, said:

“As he notes, the Prime Minister has been talking about a British Bill of Rights for eight years, and yet still, no detail.

How will a British Bill of Rights differ from the Human Rights Act? Presumably it will still protect against torture, slavery, arbitrary detention and protect our rights to speech, association and private and family life. All rights protected in the Human Rights Act, reflecting our international obligations. The reality is that the rights will be the same, and – unless we pull out of the Council of Europe – we will still have to implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Human Rights Act gets the balance right between protecting our rights and preserving parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament isn’t right 100% of the time, as ID cards, control orders and DNA databases remind us. If we give our Parliament the right to a “pick and mix” approach to human rights standards, we send the message that that is also okay for the Duma.

If the rule of law is tempered by the popular majority, it becomes no real rule at all.

Talk about this kind of British Bill of Rights might be good politics, but it’s unnecessary and dangerous for our constitution.”

JUSTICE Responds to Protecting Human Rights in the UK: Press Release

JUSTICE Director of Human Rights Policy writes for the UK Human Rights Blog: “Incoherent, Incomplete and Disrespectful”

The Future of the European Convention on Human Rights (2014)

JUSTICE Response to the Commission on a Bill of Rights (2011)

Devolution and Human Rights (2010)