72 groups demand political leadership on human rights


11:11 am - December 10th 2012

by Robert Sharp    


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Last week, 72 MPs voted to scrap the Human Rights Act.  In response, 72 civil society organisations have today written an open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, accusing the human rights debate of “lacking political leadership”.

The full text of the letter is below.

To the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron MP and the Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP

Global Human Rights Day provides an opportunity to reflect on how we can secure progress on human rights, not only internationally but here at home. On this day we seek your assurances that the legal protection of universal human rights in the UK is safe.

The last twelve months have witnessed some developments for human rights in the UK. The UK has completed its second United Nations Universal Periodic Review process, has signed if not yet ratified the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, and we welcome recent commitments to ensuring equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Nevertheless the general direction of travel on human rights issues remains a concern. We often see people unable to access justice and fair process and the continued neglect and abuse of some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our communities.

What has not changed over the past year is the increasingly worrying tone of our domestic debates about human rights and the Human Rights Act. In the UK, what should be a healthy debate about how best to secure the human rights of each and every one of us has, for far too long, lacked political leadership. This places our reputation for international human rights leadership at risk. It also jeopardises the progress we have made at home in ensuring that our human rights obligations lead to real change for people in their everyday lives.

We know from the people we work with that human rights, and the Human Rights Act, play a powerful role in supporting us all through times of difficulty and protecting us from abuse and injustice when the system fails; helping to create a respectful and fair society. This essential role of human rights is all too often obscured; yet it is these unheard stories that demonstrate how essential human rights are to us all.

From the Magna Carta to the Human Rights Act the UK has a long and proud history of recognising the need for legal limits on the exercise of State power. The protection of human rights by the law is fundamental to our modern and diverse democracy. The UK seeks to champion human rights abroad; now is the time to show leadership here at home, to re-connect the debate to the country’s traditional values of fair play and our belief in basic human dignity and justice for everyone.

In the coming weeks you will no doubt be considering the report of the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights. As you do so we seek your assurances that the protection of universal human rights is safe in the UK.  For us this means securing and advancing our Human Rights Act. We look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely

  1. Stephen Bowen, Director, British Institute of Human Rights
  2. Gary Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Action on Elder Abuse
  3. Robert Taylor OBE, Chief Executive, Age Cymru
  4. Duane Farrell, Director of Policy, Age NI
  5. Brian Sloan, Interim Chief Executive, Age Scotland
  6. Caroline Abrahams, Director of External Affairs, Age UK
  7. Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
  8. Geof Armstrong, Director, Arcadea
  9. Maurice Wren    , Director, Asylum Aid
  10. Dann Kenningham, National Coordinator, ATD Fourth World
  11. Davina James-Hanman, Director, AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)
  12. Abdul Khan, Chief Executive, BECON
  13. Nik Barstow, Director of Engagement & Involvement, BHA
  14. Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
  15. Ann Chivers, Chief Executive, British Institute of Learning Disabilities
  16. Brian Gormally, Director, CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice)
  17. Peter Newell, Coordinator, Children are unbeatable! Alliance and Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children
  18. Paola Uccellari, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England
  19. Paula Hardy, Prif Weithredwraig / Chief Executive, Cymorth i Ferched Cymru / Welsh Women’s Aid
  20. Monica Wilson, Chief Executive, Disability Action NI
  21. Liz Sayce OBE, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
  22. Catherine Casserley, Chair, Discrimination Law Association
  23. Beryl Randall, Director, Employability Forum
  24. Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
  25. Amanda Arissl, Chief Executive, Equality and Diversity Forum
  26. Katie Pratt, Chief Executive, Equality South West
  27. Holly Dustin, Director, EVAW (End Violence against Women Campaign)
  28. Keith Best, Chief Executive, Freedom from Torture
  29. Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, Galop
  30. Christl Hughes, Secretary, Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES)
  31. Samantha Smethers, Executive Director, Grandparents Plus
  32. Benjamin Ward, Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch
  33. Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive, Inclusion London
  34. Helen Shaw and Deborah Coles, Co-Directors, INQUEST
  35. Yvonne MacNamara, Chief Executive, Irish Traveller Movement in Britain
  36. Shauneen Lambe, Executive Director, Just for Kids Law
  37. Ratna Lachman, Director, JUST West Yorkshire
  38. Julie Bishop, Director, Law Centre Network
  39. Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President, Law Society of England and Wales
  40. Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive, Lesbian and Gay Foundation
  41. Shami Chakrabarti, Director, Liberty
  42. Eithne Rynne, Chief Executive, London Voluntary Services Council
  43. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
  44. Deborah Jack, Chief Executive, NAT (National AIDS Trust)
  45. Annette Lawson, Chair, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
  46. Des Kelly OBE, Executive Director, National Care Forum
  47. Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive, NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations)
  48. Patrick Yu, Executive Director, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities
  49. Kath Parson, Chief Executive, Older People’s Advocacy Alliance (UK)
  50. Karen Chandler, Campaigns Co-ordinator, Pembrokeshire People First
  51. Vaughan Jones, Chief Executive, Praxis Community Projects
  52. Juliet Lyon, Director, Prison Reform Trust
  53. Sarah Crowther, Director, REAP (Refugees in Effective and Active Partnerships)
  54. Shan Nicholas, Interim Chief Executive, Refugee Council
  55. Simon Abel, Director, Rene Cassin
  56. Elizabeth Henry, Chief Executive, ROTA (Race on the Agenda)
  57. Rob Berkeley, Director, Runnymede Trust
  58. Billy Watson, Chief Executive, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health)
  59. Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive, Scope
  60. Durrah Mahmood, Trustee, Songololo Feet
  61. Dr Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director, The Equal Rights Trust
  62. Robert Sutherland, Convenor, Scottish Legal Action Group
  63. Alison Marshall, Director of Public Affairs, UNICEF UK
  64. Phil Mulligan, Executive Director, United Nations Association – UK
  65. Peter Facey, Director, Unlock Democracy
  66. Joyce Kallevik, National Director, Wish
  67. Rachel Halford, Director, Women in Prison
  68. Nicki Norman, Deputy Chief Executive, Women’s Aid
  69. Annie Campbell, Director, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland
  70. Vivienne Hays, Chief Executive, Women’s Resource Centre
  71. Tom Doyle, Director, Yorkshire MESMAC
  72. Unison

CC: All MPs and Peers

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Story Filed Under: Civil liberties ,News ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Good for them

Would help if the issue were actually being presented properly.

The argument isn’t that human rights should not be protected in the UK, by legislation. It’s protected by whom?

Or, where are the issues justiciable?

The Human Rights Act says at the European Court of Human Rights. That’s the 40 odd member court that includes such wonderfully pro human rights places as Russia and, at times (think they’re suspended at the moment) Belarus.

Really, Putin gets a say in who judges human rights in England. Great system hunh?

Further, only the UK (actually, England and Wales) and Eire have a Common Law system. Everyone else civil (or Roman, describe it as you wish). Those other 38 judges have no sodding clue how the Common Law works.

If we repealed the Human Rights Act the only major thing that would change is that protection of human rights would appeal up to the Supreme Court, not to the ECHR.

And given that the ECHR doesn’t understand our system of law that might not be a bad thing. Plus there’s that Putin bit as well……

“The Human Rights Act says at the European Court of Human Rights.”

That’s pretty much the precise opposite of what it says.

Really, Putin gets a say in who judges human rights in England. Great system hunh?

IIRC, the ECHR has been beating Russia like a redheaded stepchild since it signed up, which would at least call that assertion into question.

The argument isn’t that human rights should not be protected in the UK, by legislation.

Well, you say that, but there is plenty of argument that human rights should not be protected in the UK. Witness the Daily Mail, Express, Telegraph, et al, nearly every single day.

Really, Putin gets a say in who judges human rights in England. Great system hunh?IIRC, the ECHR has been beating Russia like a redheaded stepchild since it signed up, which would at least call that assertion into question.

Indeed – sorry Tim W, but you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

6. So Much for Subtlety

So a bunch of the usual suspects are violently opposed to the British government cutting off their gravy train and their bid for power over the British public? Big deal. Who would have thought they would do otherwise.

This is an argument for cutting ties, not against.

Writing an open letter now counts as ‘violent opposition’? Who knew?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/UpkXk8GK

  2. Jason Brickley

    72 Organisations Demand “Political Leadership” on Human Rights http://t.co/Cp3q64AQ

  3. Sean Aspiring Pleb

    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/UpkXk8GK

  4. Fiona Caskie

    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/UpkXk8GK

  5. BIHR

    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/UpkXk8GK

  6. David William Cobb

    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/UpkXk8GK

  7. EllenS

    RT @libcon
    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/6alMxIdz

  8. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – 72 Organisations Demand “Political Leadership” on Human Rights http://t.co/qpXpMA82

  9. EllenS

    Take a look at this list. Not just human rights and equalities orgs. The Big Society has spoken! http://t.co/iL4VQNfR #HRA

  10. thedharmablues

    72 Organisations Demand “Political Leadership” on Human Rights | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/XtagL64h via @libcon

  11. Patrick Hadfield

    "Dear David Cameron and Nick Clegg…" 72 Organisations Demand “Political Leadership” on Human Rights http://t.co/rbnqO9IM via @libcon #fb

  12. Neil Crowther

    72 Organisations Demand "Political Leadership" on Human Rights http://t.co/UpkXk8GK

  13. Asylum Aid

    Asylum rights are our rights – we are proud signatories of open letter by British Institute of Human Rights http://t.co/N5tS1i9Y

  14. IpswichCAB

    72 organisations demand ‘political leadership’ on human rights ~ http://t.co/SPoXY7Pm #Act





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