Rishi Sunak is being urged to abandon the government’s controversial attempt to overhaul human rights legislation after a warning that the bill of rights appears to “tip the balance” in favour of the state and seriously damages people’s ability to enforce their rights.
A cross-party committee of MPs and peers said the bill, which would replace the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the European convention on human rights in the UK, showed a “disregard” for the UK’s international legal obligations and would lead to more cases going to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.
Ministers have said the bill is intended to curb the abuses of the current system. However, the parliamentary joint committee on human rights said it would create fresh barriers, making it harder for people to enforce their rights inside and outside the courts.
“The government should not proceed with this bill,” the committee said. “It weakens rights protections, it undermines the universality of rights, it shows disregard for our international legal obligations; it creates legal uncertainty and hinders effective enforcement; it will lead to an increased caseload in Strasbourg, and will damage our international reputation as guardians of human rights.”
Originally introduced under Boris Johnson by the deputy prime minister and justice secretary, Dominic Raab, the bill of rights was dropped by Liz Truss when she became prime minister and sacked Raab, only to be revived when Sunak entered No 10 and Raab was reappointed to his previous role.
When Sunak appeared before the Commons liaison committee last month he refused to commit to a parliamentary timetable to bring it into law.
The human rights committee said there appeared to be little wider support for the proposed changes, with victims of violence against women, care home residents and those whose family members had lost their lives due to the actions of the police or other state actors among those raising objections.
It expressed concern the bill would require courts to ignore safeguards that protect people in “urgent situations” when there is a credible risk to life or of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
It would also have an impact on the requirement on public bodies to take action to protect rights, such as conducting effective investigations into the loss of life – as in the Hillsborough inquests.
If enacted in its current form, it would result in “more barriers to enforcing human rights, more cases taken to Strasbourg and more adverse judgments against the UK”, she said.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The bill of rights builds on the UK’s proud tradition of liberty by strengthening freedom of speech, re-injecting a healthy dose of common sense to the system and ending abuse of our laws.”
Source: The Guardian