Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Commission warns against ‘regressive’ change to human rights laws
Changes to human rights laws that would water down the protections we all enjoy would be ‘regressive’ and undermine Britain’s reputation as a global leader that can challenge human rights abuses abroad, the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned recently.
The Commission is the national body charged with protecting and promoting human rights. The comments were made in a letter to the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights from Commission Chair Onora O’Neill and Chief Executive Mark Hammond. The letter is expected to highlight:
- The Commission’s clear position that any changes to our current human rights framework must not reduce the protections contained in the Human Rights Act, nor weaken the mechanisms for securing redress for breaches of human rights.
- The mechanisms for enforcement of any alternative to the Human Rights Act must be accessible and effective. Unless this is ensured, the rights set out in any new Act would be without real remedy. This would breach a core legal principle and constitute a regressive step in the protection of fundamental rights.
- How few cases in the European Court of Human Rights result in findings against the UK, which shows how well human rights are protected in this country. It also suggests that concerns about the Strasbourg Court’s influence on UK courts and laws may be overstated.
- The need to confront and address concerns and confusion. For example, the recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner voting comes after asking for a change in the law for years, during which no UK Government has put forward the requisite legislation. This shows that Strasbourg may suggest, but cannot command, legal change; decisions remain in the hands of the UK Parliament and Government.
Chief Executive Mark Hammond said:
“Our view is that any changes to our current human rights framework should not water down the protections contained in the Human Rights Act. In the year we celebrate the birth of our fundamental freedoms through the Magna Carta, it would be a bitter irony to weaken them.
“We are at a crossroads for human rights. One path risks undermining and diminishing our influence and status as a global leader in human rights and civil liberties. The other path will safeguard both our reputation for fairness and moral authority when confronting human rights abuses abroad.
“The Commission welcomes a debate on such important issues, but would not support a reversal of the leading global role Britain has long played in protecting and promoting human rights, nor a reduction in the protections of rights that we all currently enjoy under the Human Rights Act.”
Notes to Editors
- The Commission's letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights can be found here.
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006. It is an independent body responsible for protecting and promoting equality and human rights in Great Britain. It aims to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. It encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and is accredited by the UN as an ‘A status’ National Human Rights Institution.
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