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Human Rights Day 2020

On global Human Rights Day Leigh Day is among 110 groups from across the UK to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister and political leaders, urging them to respond proportionately to COVID-19, protect people's rights and the rule of law, and to stand by the Human Rights Act.

Posted on 10 December 2020

In the week that the UK Government has launched a review of the Human Rights Act the letter urges the PM to stand with them for the “shared values of equal dignity, respect, fairness and decency; to protect people’s rights and the rule of law, to stand for the Human Rights Act”.
Issued on the 10 December, global Human Rights Day, the open letter highlights the extraordinary events of 2020, and in particular the pandemic, noting that “human rights must not be an afterthought in times of crisis; human rights were born of disaster and must guide the Covid-19 response and recovery”.  
The open call to stand firm on the human rights of all people across the UK comes from grassroots groups, local charities, international organisations, professional bodies and statutory commissioners, health and care providers, lawyers, and support groups.
Together the groups note: “Too many people have suffered disproportionately, including BAME communities, older people, disabled people, children, women, carers and more.”
It notes that the UK’s Human Rights Act contains “rights which belong to us all … to life, liberty, freedom from harm, non-discrimination, family, wellbeing, and choice”.
These “powerful” tools have been” under-used” in the response to the pandemic; the response must “protect the equal human dignity of us all, and human rights legislation offers a way to navigate this maze, to balance risk with rights”.
The open letter is co-ordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights.
BIHR director, Sanchita Hosali said:
“This year we’ve all witnessed just how important our rights are, many of us have felt sharply what family rights means, our wellbeing has been tested, we’ve faced restrictions on our liberty, and measures which have discriminated.
“Even, or especially in the grips of this pandemic, we can do better than blanket “do not resuscitate” orders placed the medical files of disabled people and children; better than the disproportionate use of police powers against BAME communities; better than leaving older people abandoned in care homes, many with dementia unable to remember their loved ones after almost a year apart. 
“Our Human Rights Act, rather than being reviewed, needs to be used for the purpose it was intended; to help us build a culture of respect where every institution and decision-maker thinks about all of our rights how to balance these in proportionate ways that keep us safe and well whilst respecting our dignity. That is the kind of decent society the Human Rights Act can help us achieve.
“Today, over 110 organisations spanning the length and breadth of the UK recognise this; we see the difference our Human Rights Act can make for people in everyday ways that make all of our lives better. In these most difficult of times, our Human Rights Act can help navigate the maze of uncertainty, securing the accountable and people-focused exercise of power we all need.”
Jamie Beagent, who leads the human rights team at Leigh Day, said:
“Our work at Leigh Day constantly testifies to the absolute necessity of the Human Rights Act to protect people in every walk of life. We are proud to sign the open letter to the Prime Minister.” 
On a day in which the global community marks the importance of human rights, over 110 groups across the UK will “stand together, proud of our human rights standards in the UK, but worried that political rhetoric is again turning towards questioning our laws, with increasing concerns that people’s ability to seek accountability will be reduced”.
They call on the Prime Minister and political leaders to “stand with us for the dignity of all people, for respect, fairness and decency; for a proportionate response to these extraordinary times that focuses on protecting people’s rights and the rule of law. To stand with us for our Human Rights Act”.
Global Human Rights Day marks the day in 1948 when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) following WW2. In the preamble to the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, the Council of Europe reaffirms the UHDR aim of securing universal and effective observance of human rights. The UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 creates legal duties that bring these Convention rights into UK law.

Jamie Beagent
Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning

Jamie Beagent

Joint head of the human rights department specialising in judicial review and public law.

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