Shami Chakrabarti’s Liberty sets sights on Scotland

Shami Chakrabarti
Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti

British civil liberties pressure group Liberty will be “more vigilant and active” in Scotland, director Shami Chakrabarti told an audience of lawyers in Edinburgh yesterday.

Speaking to around 70 lawyers and law students at a Scottish Legal Training event in the Mackenzie Building of the Faculty of Advocates, Ms Chakrabarti said Liberty’s members in Scotland had called for the group to scrutinise the Scottish Parliament over decisions affecting human rights north of the border.

She told the audience: “We do intend to be more vigilant and active in Scotland.”

Earlier in the event, Ms Chakrabarti had said she was “grateful” for the commitment by SNP MPs to defend the Human Rights Act 1998, which is under threat from the UK government.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants to scrap the HRA, but dropped that commitment from the first Conservative Queen’s Speech after he failed to guarantee a majority of MPs would vote in favour.

Ms Chakrabarti said she believed the government would now wage a “war of attrition” against the legislation, and warned that the European Court of Human Rights “could come down like a house of cards” if the UK decided to withdraw.

She warned that there would need to be a “hard-nosed political fight to save an apparatus hard-won with blood in World War Two”.

The UK government says it has no current plans to withdraw from the ECtHR, but Home Secretary Theresa May has repeatedly refused to rule out the move.

Ms Chakrabarti also said “discrimination cases in particular could be affected” by the government’s proposal to replace the HRA with a British Bill of Rights that cannot be applied to “trivial” cases.

Ms Chakrabarti’s speech identified online privacy as the “new frontier of rights and freedoms”, while she also slammed the “denigration of due process” and undermining of universal human rights as important issues for her organisation.

Speaking afterwards, event organiser advocate Niall McCluskey told Scottish Legal News: “We heard a great talk from Shami Chakrabarti, where she focussed on key concerns such as privacy, access to justice and the attack on the Human Rights Act.

“She reminded us that as lawyers, we need to constantly focus our efforts on protecting these rights.”

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