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Protecting the Human Rights Act

Protecting the Human Rights Act

Categories: Latest News

Thursday March 04 2021

The recent announcement of an independent review into the Human Rights Act follows many years of Governmental opposition to the current framework protecting human rights in the UK. The review also emerges amid increasing attacks from government ministers and supporters regarding the powers of the judiciary to scrutinise decisions and make rulings which may undermine the wishes of the Government; whether that be regarding the prorogue of Parliament on what was later ruled to be unlawful advice of the Prime Minister, the unlawful handling of PPE contracts during the pandemic, or “activist lawyers” representing the rights of vulnerable people to remain in the country.

There is great concern that this current review of the Human Rights Act 1998 will be used as a mechanism to damage the judicial protections upon which victims of human rights breaches rely.

Democratic and free societies are built upon the ideals of equality, justice, and fairness. It is in line with these principles that we expect our governments and public bodies to act, and it is through these principles that we hold them to account when they do not meet this standard. Within this framework, the HRA is a valuable check on power and an important mechanism for mitigating and correcting intentional or unintentional state actions that jeopardise the values, rights, and freedoms that we hold dear. In other words, even the best-intentioned legislation and policies can occasionally overlook potential human rights implications and can threaten the equality we expect as citizens; whether that be impacts to our privacy, our access to education, our freedom to hold political or religious beliefs, or our protection from abuse.

The HRA allows citizens to access justice in these situations. Specifically, it allows courts to determine if human rights have been breached. If this is found to be the case, the courts can demand that any legislation that is incompatible with our human rights obligations be changed by the Government. This is a fundamental and objective protection against any government’s abuse of power.

However, as previously mentioned, recent times have seen the current Government’s increasing hostility to the courts and indications that they wish to remove or restrict judicial scrutiny. If this were to happen, any potential human rights breaches and considerations to legislation would be subject solely to the decisions of Parliament – a body which cannot escape its politicised underpinnings and the subsequent infiltration of political agendas into any such decision.

Consequently, the importance of the courts cannot be overstated. It is only through the courts that all citizens can be assured access to justice and the legal protection of their rights, regardless of the political machinations of those in political power. MEND has submitted evidence to the Independent Human Rights Act Review and our submission can be read here.


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