Human rights must be protected during period of change

Sir Oliver Heald QC MP

The most marginalised in society will pay the price if human rights protections are weakened through Brexit and repealing the Human Rights Act, the UK’s three human rights institutions have warned.

In a meeting with Sir Oliver Heald QC MP, minister of state for justice, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission stated that as we go through a period of great constitutional change the UK government must take the opportunity to strengthen human rights protections, not weaken them.

The minister was also told that the UK’s position as a global leader on human rights is under threat through repeated failures to implement United Nations human rights standards.

Next month the UK government’s human rights record will be scrutinised by the UN in Geneva as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. All three commissions have submitted reports to the UN, which included issues such as access to justice, welfare reform and gender equality, as part of their role in monitoring and holding governments to account.

In a joint chairs’ statement, David Isaac from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Judith Robertson from the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Les Allamby from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said:

“Too many people are being let down on key human rights issues such as housing, food and social care. Next month the UK’s human rights record will come under the international microscope and our reports to the UN have made it clear where more work needs to be done.

“The UK has signed up to many international human rights laws. The government should now make them part of domestic law and policies so they can be enforced and improve people’s everyday lives.

“Brexit raises significant uncertainty about the future of human rights protections in the UK. As the process unfolds, the Government must make a commitment to strengthen human rights laws after leaving the EU. We are concerned that there will be a reduction in current human rights protection once we leave the EU. Our position is clear that there should be no diminution of rights and that we should take this opportunity to strengthen protection.

“We will be working together to ensure that the UN has an accurate picture of human rights across the UK and where the UK Government needs to do more.”