We are delighted to host this guest post from Sanchita Hosali of the British Institute of Human Rights who recently hosted a one-day event in Belfast on the Human Rights Act as part of their #16cities tour.
One human rights story doesn’t seem to have featured in this week’s headlines and sound-bites. One which goes to the heart of our country’s values and the future of our legal protections. Interestingly it’s a positive story, and more than that one that involves the Human Rights Act. So what is the good news it I hear you ask?!
So the good news…
There is a clear message of support for keeping the Human Rights Act coming out of the public consultations held by the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights. The responses to the consultation which closed on 30 September have just been made public and join those from the 2011 consultation published earlier this year.
Sadly the Commission has decided not to release its analysis of the consultation responses. However, BIHR has been doing a bit of totting up and it looks like the figures supporting the Human Right Act are around the 80-90% mark (with the caveat that we’re not statisticians!) Having read (literally) all the public responses to the 2011 consultation BIHR’s analysis suggests that around 80% of responses said there is no need for a UK Bill of Rights (mainly because the Human Rights Act functions like one) or that if there is to be any new law this should sit alongside and build on the Act.
What are people saying?
Many people also added their own personal messages about why the Human Rights Act is important. Social workers revealed how the Act helps them do their job better. People whose parents fought in the Second World War to secure our rights expressed their concerns about replacing the Human Rights Act with something that takes our protections backwards. Parents with disabled children shared how the Human Rights Act is vital for their families. And there were even former sceptics who having found out more about the Human Rights Act realised its value.
There were just over 2000 responses to the 2012 consultation and together with a similar postcard campaign run by our friends in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Consortium it looks like we made up around 85-90% of the submissions! The 2011 and 2012 consultations together send the Commission a clear message of support for the Human Rights Act to the Commission.
Why does it matter?
The Commission is due to report back to Government at the end of this year. The Human Rights Act has been one of the red lines between two parties in Government. The Commission itself was created to bridge the gap between the Conservative party position to scrap the Human Rights Act and the Lib Dems promise to protect it.
What the responses to the Commission show is that there is public support for the Human Rights Act, and it will be interesting to see how this is reflected in the report. The people, it would seem, are saying keep our Human Rights Act. As the Commission reaches the end of its task, it is clear that the journey of securing our human rights protections and stopping them from being taken backwards is only just beginning.
To find out more and get in on the #Act campaign visit www.bihr-act.org.uk