UK Commissions Alert United Nations Committee on Human Rights Act
18 June 2015
The three UK National Human Rights Institutions have jointly written to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the potential changes to the human rights framework in the UK.
NIHRC Chief Commissioner Les Allamby stated:
“The three UK Commissions’ have alerted the United Nations Human Rights Committee to the current UK situation. We believe that the Human Rights Act has provided essential protection to everyone in the UK, enabling fundamental rights to be enforced in our domestic courts. It is our view that changing our human rights laws would have significant constitutional and social consequences.”
The joint letter follows the announcement in the Queens speech that the UK Government intends, in the next year, to” bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act.”
The Joint Human Rights Commissions letter states:
“The Commissions will examine any legislative proposals in detail, and we consider that any changes to our human rights laws must pass a simple test: do they take us forwards or back? We would not support a reversal of the leading global role the UK has long played in protecting and promoting human rights at home and abroad.”
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Notes to editors
1. Read the joint letter in full here
2. By way of the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, the UK Government has set out its intentions for legislative change over the next year. The UK Government has stated that it:
“will bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. This would reform and modernise our human rights legal framework and restore common sense to the application of human rights laws. It would also protect existing rights, which are an essential part of a modern, democratic society, and better protect against abuse of the system and misuse of human rights laws.”
3. The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) gives domestic effect to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
4. Prime Minister’s Office, Queen’s Speech 2015, 27th May 2015, available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/430149/QS_lobby_pack_FINAL_NEW_2.pdf
5. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
6. There are three human rights Commission’s in the UK - the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Great Britain. All three have been accredited with ‘A’ status by the United Nations. Accreditation of NHRIs takes place within the UN system according to the “Paris Principles”, a set of guidelines adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993. The principles outline that an NHRI should have a foundation in national law, be independent from government, have a mandate to cover a broad range of international human rights standards, demonstrate pluralism and independence in the selection and appointment of members and a responsibility to work with both civil society and the state.