The Draft Bill of Rights Risks to Undermine Human Rights in UK
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On August 17th, 2022, the Special Procedure made public a joint Communication to the UK, raising concerns on “some of the provisions of the draft Bill of Rights that may undermine the enjoyment of human rights in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK)”. On June 22nd, 2022, the draft Bill of Rights was published and presented to the House of Commons to amend the Human Rights Act of 1998 and re-balance “the relationship between courts in the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights and Parliament” in a concerning manner. (United Nations Special Procedures Communication, 2022)
Lawyers and experts are worried that the UK wanted to make the last word: despite remaining a signatory party of the EU Convention on Human Rights, UK judges will not be bound to interpret the law in compliance with the Convention, while having the power to disregard the jurisprudence of the ECHR. (Raj, 2022; Mureithi, 2022) Some argue that the new provisions will rather target those individuals who are the most in need of protection, such as prisoners and foreigners. For instance, clause 8 of the Bill risks to preclude the possibility that individuals subject to deportation may rely on the right to private life enshrined in Article 8 ECHR to prevent their deportation. Similarly, according to clause 6 of the Bill entitled “public protection”, British courts will be enabled to narrowly interpret and apply all ECHR rights of individuals in custody with the exception of the right to life, prohibitions of torture and slavery, and the guarantee of no punishment without law (Milanovic, 2022)
Overall, the Special Procedures Communication (2022) is concerned that the new draft would undermine UK compliance with and enforcement of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the commitments related to universal human rights instruments protecting legal safeguards and the rule of law. Particularly concerning are possible violations of the rights to fair trial, effective remedy, equality before the courts, equality before the law, and non-discrimination. Therefore, Special Procedures required the UK to provide further information to explain how the draft of the Bill of Rights could be in compliance with international commitments.
Sources and Further Readings:
- Mureithi (June 24, 2022), Here’s what you need to know about the ‘Rights Removal Bill’, OpenDemocracy, retrieved on August 24th, 2022, from https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/bill-repeal-human-rights-act/.
- Raj (June 22, 2022), The UK Government’s Bill of Wrongs – Replacing Human Rights Act with ‘British Bill of Rights’ Will Dilute Rights Protections, Human Rights Watch, retrieved on August 24th, 2022, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/22/uk-governments-bill-wrongs.
- Milanovic (June 23, 2022), The Sad and Cynical Spectacle of the Draft British Bill of Rights, EJIL: Talk!, retrieved on August 24th, 2022, from https://www.ejiltalk.org/the-sad-and-cynical-spectacle-of-the-draft-british-bill-of-rights/.
United Nations Special Procedures Communication, JOL GBR 12/2022, (August 17, 2022), https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=27487.