Bri­tain in the dock over its re­fusal to back more than 100 UN hu­man rights tar­gets

Fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in ba­sic pro­tec­tions is likely as Brexit looms, warn equal­ity and rights groups

The Observer - - NEWS - By Jamie Doward

Bri­tain is head­ing for a con­fronta­tion this week at the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil over its fail­ure to sup­port more than 100 rec­om­men­da­tions on sub­jects rang­ing from the rights of chil­dren to the in­ter­na­tional law on abor­tion.

David Isaac, chair of the Equal­ity and Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (EHRC), will at­tend the UN’s uni­ver­sal pe­ri­odic re­view (UPR) of the UK’s hu­man rights record in Geneva, a process which takes place for ev­ery coun­try once ev­ery five years.

Among the rec­om­men­da­tions that the gov­ern­ment has de­clined to back, a num­ber out­line the need for the UK to limit how long some­one can be held in an im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tre. The UK is the only Euro­pean coun­try with­out such a time limit.

Bri­tain has also de­clined to sup­port rec­om­men­da­tions on the de­ten­tion of chil­dren in im­mi­gra­tion cen­tres. Of a to­tal of 229 rec­om­men­da­tions by UN mem­bers, the gov­ern­ment will con­firm that it is sup­port­ing just 96 – 42% of the to­tal. The gov­ern­ment has cho­sen sim­ply to “note” the re­main­der.

In 2012, the last time the UK was sub­ject to a re­view, it sup­ported 54% of the rec­om­men­da­tions. The global av­er­age for sup­port­ing UPR rec­om­men­da­tions is 73%. France sup­ported 82% of them at its last re­view in 2013; Saudi Ara­bia sup­ported 66%.

Isaac will also warn the UN that the post- Brexit land­scape threat­ens a fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in stan­dards. Al­though his­tor­i­cally Bri­tain has been a champion of hu­man rights, “That rep­u­ta­tion is now un­der threat, due to the neg­a­tive tone of de­bate around the Hu­man Rights Act, and the po­ten­tial risk to peo­ple’s equal­ity and hu­man rights pro­tec­tions when the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union,” he will say.

“The in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights sys­tem pro­vides greater pro­tec­tion for those rights, but the UK gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­ued re­fusal to fully in­cor­po­rate the UN treaties it has signed shows scant re­gard for its in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments. We are dis­ap­pointed by the lack of lead­er­ship on hu­man rights across the UK gov­ern­ment.”

The sharply worded re­buke is likely to fo­cus global at­ten­tion on the UK’s hu­man rights record at a time when min­is­ters are pre­oc­cu­pied with ne­go­ti­at­ing a good deal to leave the EU.

The gov­ern­ment claims its im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion is in line with obli­ga­tions un­der the UN con­ven­tion on the rights of the child (CRC), but the CRC com­mit­tee last year dis­agreed and asked the UK to re­view its 2016 Im­mi­gra­tion Act.

Other mea­sures the gov­ern­ment has cho­sen not to sup­port in­clude a pro­posal to “en­sure that the law gov­ern­ing ac­cess to abor­tion in North­ern Ire­land fully com­plies with in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights law, by de­crim­i­nal­is­ing abor­tion and en­sur­ing ac­cess in cases of se­vere and fa­tal foetal anom­alies and where the preg­nancy is a re­sult of rape or in­cest”.

A rec­om­men­da­tion from Kaza­khstan that the UK re­view the im­pact of wel­fare re­form on chil­dren from dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies was not sup­ported. The gov­ern­ment has ex­plained that “due to method­olog­i­cal and mod­el­ling lim­i­ta­tions, the UK gov­ern­ment does not pub­lish such cu­mu­la­tive anal­y­sis for pro­tected char­ac­ter­is­tics”. How­ever, the EHRC ar­gues that such as­sess­ments are both fea­si­ble and prac­ti­ca­ble.

A rec­om­men­da­tion sug­gest­ing chil­dren should be banned from join­ing the armed forces has also not been adopted. The UK is one of the few coun­tries in the world to al­low 16-year- olds to join the armed ser­vices.

Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish In­sti­tute of Hu­man Rights, the Chil­dren’s Rights Al­liance for Eng­land, the Run­nymede Trust and Just Fair, have come to­gether to ex­press their dis­ap­point­ment at the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion.

In a joint state­ment to the Ob­server, the groups state: “Just like us, world lead­ers are wor­ried about the re­gres­sive cli­mate for hu­man rights in our coun­try. Ten coun­tries ex­pressed par­tic­u­lar con­cerns about the peren­nial threat to re­peal the Hu­man Rights Act. Oth­ers asked the gov­ern­ment to en­sure that leav­ing the EU will not re­sult in lower hu­man rights stan­dards in the UK.”

San­chita Hos­ali, act­ing di­rec­tor of the Bri­tish In­sti­tute of Hu­man Rights, said: “If the UK is to main­tain its stance as a global champion of rights, we must wel­come and em­brace scru­tiny of our hu­man rights record here at home.”

Louise King, di­rec­tor of the Chil­dren’s Rights Al­liance for Eng­land (CRAE), said: “This is part of a wor­ry­ing trend of row­ing back on cru­cial hu­man rights pro­tec­tions fol­low­ing threats to re­peal the Hu­man Rights Act and a fail­ure to au­to­mat­i­cally trans­pose the Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights into UK law through the EU (with­drawal) bill.”

A Min­istry of Jus­tice spokesper­son said: “The UK has a long­stand­ing tra­di­tion of en­sur­ing our rights and lib­er­ties are pro­tected do­mes­ti­cally and of ful­fill­ing our in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights obli­ga­tions. The de­ci­sion to leave the Euro­pean Union does not change this.”

1. The UK is one of the few coun­tries in the world to let 16-year-olds join the armed forces.

2. A call for the gov­ern­ment to look at the im­pact of wel­fare cuts on dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren has not been sup­ported.

3. There has been no move­ment by the gov­ern­ment to lift the ban on abor­tion in North­ern Ire­land.

4. Con­cerns have been raised about lack of a time limit for hold­ing peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren, at im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tres like Yarl’s Wood.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.