Law Society: UK reputation in tatters with ‘legally precarious’ Rwanda bill

Law Society: UK reputation in tatters with 'legally precarious' Rwanda bill

Sheila Webster

The UK’s international reputation is “in jeopardy” as a result of Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill, the Law Society of Scotland has warned.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is designed to allow the UK government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda in spite of a UK Supreme Court ruling last month which found the controversial scheme risks breaching human rights.

The policy forms part of a government strategy to deter illegal Channel crossings by small boats. Mr Sunak has said that “stopping the boats” is a crucial objective before the next general election.

The Law Society of Scotland has raised serious concerns about the bill in a brief submission ahead of its rushed second reading, just five days after it was introduced in Westminster.

Sheila Webster, president of the Law Society, said: “We’re very concerned about this bill, and particularly sections that would undermine the independence of our judiciary, along with the UK’s commitment to human rights and international law. Our international reputation is in jeopardy.

“The ministerial statement accompanying this bill, that he’s unable to say it is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, puts it in a legally precarious position. The UK must comply with its international obligations or be in breach of the rule of law.”

She added: “Judicial independence from executive government is a fundamental part of our democracy. That separation of powers is contradicted by the bill’s proposal for the government rather than courts to decide whether to comply with interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights.

“The judiciary is similarly sidelined by clause 2 of the bill, requiring courts to treat Rwanda as a safe country regardless of evidence or official assessment to the contrary. No exception would be made even if for example the recently signed UK-Rwanda Treaty was not being complied with.

“We’re also concerned this legislation would appear to give the Rwanda treaty retroactive effect regardless of when an asylum seeker has entered the UK, and that it disapplies a raft of international treaties including the Human Rights Convention and the Convention Against Torture.

“Seeking to rush through passage of this legislation is concerning in itself. We have not been able to examine this bill in the detail we would like before the second reading. Seeking to avoid scrutiny and informed critique will only lead to legislation that’s more prone to legal and practical failure.”

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