Human rights submission to UN to detail UK failings

David Isaac

The UK has failed to satisfy numerous human rights recommendations made by the United Nations and should do more to deal with hate crimes, prison overcrowding and stop and search powers, according to a coalition of 175 civil society organisations, The Guardian reports.

In their report, organised by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and to be submitted to the UN today, the organisations argue that the UK government is damaging international standards with its intention to abolish the Human Rights Act.

The submission states: “The UK’s retrogressive debates are already negatively influencing other countries. There is increasing concern that the UK’s political rhetoric will, if not checked, threaten the coherence and credibility of the post-second world war human rights settlement.”

The UK is to appear before the United Nation Human Rights Council early next year.

As part of this process, domestic NGOs can submit critiques of domestic issues.

In the report, the organisations acknowledge that the UK has a “generally good level of rights protection” but warns that a large number of the 132 recommendations from the 2012 UN hearings have not been acted on.

It points to the government’s policy of establishing a “hostile environment” for irregular migrants and discrimination against minorities.

Stephen Bowen, chief executive of BIHR, said: “The UK government needs to listen, not just to the United Nations but to the voices of the huge range of organisations closer to home that have shared their serious concern. They are troubled the government is taking the UK towards further isolationism and disregarding the United Nations, worsening the situation with welfare and legal aid cuts, and wanting to scrap the Human Rights Act, weakening its accountability for our rights at home as well as internationally.”

David Isaac, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Harriet Harman QC MP, chair of the Joint Committee On Human Rights will launch the report.

Mr Isaac will say: “Any proposed changes to human rights law must not weaken the protections we all enjoy, jeopardise our remarkable record of upholding human rights nor move the country backwards.

“If we are to stand up to human rights abuses abroad, our own record inevitably comes under scrutiny. Our credibility and influence as a global player depends on the UK having an exemplary human rights record - both in terms of the legal framework and our adherence to the highest standards of human rights in practice.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK is a confident, strong and dependable partner internationally – true to the universal values shared by the United Nations.

“As a nation we continue to fully comply to our international human rights obligations and we continue to take action to tackle any abuse of these rights. This includes working together with the UN to adapt a global response to mass migration and reducing the threat from international terrorism, stamping out modern slavery, championing the rights of women and girls and abhorring sexual violence in conflict.”