Human Rights in a Time of Uncertainty

Our first meeting after our summer break was a timely talk about the current threats to human rights legislation from Chris Ramsey of Amnesty International, attracting around thirty people to the B-Bar to hear him. 

Chris started by pointing out the many factors that are driving scepticism about the need for universal protection for human rights, such as ‘failed’ wars in the Middle East, the rise of Islamist extremism and terrorism, and refugee and migrant crises.  As was pointed out by the audience, this can only get worse as climate change further drives people to desperate measures to protect themselves and their families.

These events are creating a hostile atmosphere for anyone considered ‘other’ and fuelling the rise of right-wing popularist parties such the Front National in France, the AfD in Germany and our own UKIP.  Such is the confusion and fear being spread that we have ended up in France with three armed police deciding how much flesh a woman should show on a beach for people to be safe.

Chris then talked about the Human Rights Act 1998.  It means that we can now go to a British Court instead of Strasburg to seek redress for human rights violations.  Yet even though the European Convention on Human Rights, which it embodies, was a largely British creation, it now comes under increasing attack, not least because it contains mention of the poisoned word ‘Europe’.

Chris highlighted the many benefits seen from the HRA – for instance, husband and wife pensioners have been able to use it to be accommodated in the same nursing home, while victims of malpractice at Stafford Hospital were able to force the Government to investigate because of it.

When faced with a list of Human Rights, no one is able to pick out any they think should be dropped. Instead the push now seems to be to deny them to non-British people and others seen as ‘undesirable’.

Chris finished by talking about Amnesty International’s campaigns to save the Human Rights Act and ensure refuges receive a warm welcome.

The talk was followed by a lively Q& A session, where ways to fight back against the tide of media hostility to human rights, refugees and immigrants were debated