Wednesday 10 December 2014
Amid United Kingdom Government proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, today, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on the UK Government to respect its international obligations to guarantee access to justice and human rights protection for all UK citizens.
The UK Government has stated, inter alia, that only the ‘most serious cases’ of human rights breaches – rather than all of the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights– will be included in the framework of the new legislation. This will potentially narrow the circumstances in which human rights law could provide redress, and the possibilities in which someone in the UK could claim a breach of human rights.
Furthermore, the IBAHRI is alarmed by the proposed reforms to judicial review as outlined in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The Bill widens the scope of courts’ discretion to refuse a remedy for a procedural defect in the decision-making process by an administrative body. In cases where the outcome of the decision would have been considerably similar had the procedural error not occurred, there may be a sharp decline in the number of cases that are applicable for judicial review. This may in turn lead to administrative bodies – such as local councils for example – cutting corners in their decision-making processes and disadvantaging the public.
A draft anti-terrorism legislative package, recently introduced, is also of great concern to the IBAHRI. The UK Government’s proposal to introduce ‘temporary exclusion orders’, which will allow authorities to refuse entry of British citizens into the UK on the basis that they are suspected of being involved in serious international crimes, including terrorism, is viewed as having further potential to impinge on due process rights and access to justice.
IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC states ‘The Government’s current trend of proposing legislation that severely compromises human rights protection needs to be curbed before it negatively impacts access to justice both nationally and internationally. The general public deserve a justice system in which their basic liberties are guaranteed, and that affords them the security of legal redress and appeal both domestically and within the framework of the European Court of Human Rights.’ She added, ‘The IBAHRI considers reducing applicability of human rights law in the UK a retrograde step and reminds the Government that it has international legal obligations not only to promote and protect basic liberties, but to ensure fair trial rights are upheld. Public bodies must be held accountable for their actions and omissions. To do otherwise would be a grave violation of human rights and negatively undermine the rule of law.’
Notes to the Editor
The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.
The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States of America, while the IBA’s International Criminal Court Programme is managed from an office in The Hague.
The IBA’s Human Rights Institute works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just Rule of Law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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