Image under ‘Creative Commons Licence’
The UK Government has announced its intention to replace the Human Rights Act with a new British Bill of Rights. Within
the current climate of political change this proposal has received little attention, so it is worthwhile considering the
The Human Rights Act was introduced in 1998 to ensure that UK Courts’ consideration of human rights complies with the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In 1950, the UK took a lead role in establishing the ECHR, long before the
European Union came into being. The ECHR, and the European court that oversees it, are separate to the European Union so
the UK’s decision to leave the EU does not affect our status as a supporter of the Convention and of the European Court of
The Act ensures that UK law is drafted and interpreted in a way that is compatible with the European Convention on Human
Rights. The current Government wants to break this link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights
that oversees the Convention. It proposes to bring in a British Bill of Rights so that UK judges are not bound by the case law
and the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, thus threatening the principle of objectivity which ensures that
the rights of British citizens and others are protected. Consequently the repeal of the Human Rights Act could affect the
treatment of asylum seekers and others for whom the satisfaction of rights are subject to political posturing in Government
and in Parliament. Such a bill would give politicians rather than judges the upper hand in determining the circumstances in
which the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and British citizens can be derogated.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, has said, “If Britain - a key member of the
Human Rights Council; a founding member of the UN; and a privileged permanent member of the Security Council - is
considering a move that will potentially weaken a vital regional institution upholding fundamental human rights guarantees,
this would be profoundly regrettable. It would be damaging for victims and human rights protection; and contrary to this
country’s commendable history of global and regional engagement.”
Write to your MP.
You might like to suggest that the European Court of Human Rights is a beacon to the world and a proud legacy to UK
diplomatic leadership following the Second World War. It would be counterproductive in these troubled times to withdraw
support from such a vital and independent protector of human rights standards.