News In Focus
UK should be challenged on human rights plans: Miller
20 September 2012
The United Nations should challenge the UK Government over its intention to replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights, the head of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said today.
Addressing the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva on behalf of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissions and the Equality & Human Rights Commission, Professor Alan Miller said the Human Rights Act was an essential legal protection, and international organisations like the United Nations should scrutinise and challenge plans to scrap the Act.
The three Commissions are giving evidence on the UK’s human rights record, as part of the Universal Periodic Review process, where the UK is examined every four years by the Human Rights Council.
Professor Miller said: “Both the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission are concerned that the current UK Bill of Rights process may undermine existing protections in the Human Rights Act 1998. We are therefore calling for the UK to retain the Human Rights Act, and to consider additional measures to incorporate other international human rights treaties. The Human Rights Council should closely examine the UK Government’s plans, and challenge what these would mean for people’s everyday lives and their ability to realise their human rights.”
In a joint statement to the Human Rights Council, the Commissions also warn of growing concern over public spending cuts. The submission reads: “We are concerned by the effect of the economic crisis and austerity measures adopted by the UK Government on [the] enjoyment of human rights in the UK. We are particularly concerned with their potential effect on women, children, ethnic minorities and disabled people. We recommend that the UK Government ensures it respects human rights in budgetary decisions and carefully monitors the impact of policy on disadvantaged groups through equality and human rights impact assessments.”
They also call on the UK Government to develop a timetabled plan to implement the recommendations which come from the review; sign and ratify international human rights treaties and protocols guaranteeing the right to individual petition; adopt various specific recommendations previously made; take effective measures to combat all forms of violence against women and increase efforts to combat human trafficking; and recognise the human rights to water and sanitation.
Click here to access the full submission.