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More than 50 groups warn of 'dire' effect if Britain abandons Human Rights Act

More than 50 groups warn of 'dire' effect if Britain abandons Human Rights Act
The letter, written to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is signed by Amnesty International, Liberty, the British Institute of Human Rights, Stonewall, Friends of the Earth, End Violence Against Women Coalition and Freedom from Torture. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

May 9 (UPI) -- More than 50 organizations have signed onto a letter warning of "dire consequences" if the British government abandons the Human Rights Act, arguing that it would put women and children at risk and threaten peace in Northern Ireland.

British justice minister Dominic Raab said that the new Bill of Rights would limit some of the influence of Human Rights Act and give judges more leeway to diverge from rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

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Raab said that it would also ensure that public safety gets "more priority than the rights of offenders."

Some of the details of the new bill were expected to be highlighted in a speech Tuesday by Queen Elizabeth II.

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Sacha Deshmukh, executive director of Amnesty International in Britain, has criticized the British bill and said its changes would open a "Pandora's box" of negative consequences.

"[The Human Rights Act] is about empowering ordinary people," Deshmukh said in a statement. "It is about ensuring accountability so that the no one, including the government is above the law.

"So of course, all governments will find human rights law inconvenient at times. Let's face it, few of us respond well to being told when we can't do something we want."

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The cautionary letter, written to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is signed by Amnesty International, Liberty, the British Institute of Human Rights, Stonewall, Friends of the Earth, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Freedom from Torture and several other advocacy groups.

The groups contend that the planned changes would undermine international law and damage Britain's reputation as a human rights advocate. It would also risk breaching the Good Friday Agreement, threaten peace in Northern Ireland and remove obligations for police to properly investigate violence against women and girls, they said.

A government spokesperson argued that the bill would strengthen human rights for Britons, including freedom of expression.

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"They will also prevent abuses of the system, adding a healthy dose of common sense and restore parliament's rightful role as the ultimate decision-maker on laws impacting the U.K. population," the spokesperson said, according to The Guardian.

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