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More than 150 organisations, including charities, trades unions, human rights bodies, and religion or belief groups, have joined a coalition in defence of human rights and judicial review. The coalition, which was established by Humanists UK, has formed in response to growing pressure from the UK Government to review both of these areas of our constitutional law, potentially with a view to scaling back, weakening, or repealing protections.
Last year, the Government launched a new panel to examine the case for reforming judicial review powers including exempting certain subjects or Government actions from being judicially reviewable at all. Earlier this year, it also launched a panel to review the Human Rights Act 1998. Humanists UK has written about its concern this review could weaken these protections. The Government, under Theresa May, had committed to repealing the Act entirely.
The statement says:
‘While every system could be improved, and protecting rights and freedoms for all is a balancing act, our Human Rights Act is a proportionate and well-drafted protection for the fundamental liberties and responsibilities of everyone in this country.
‘The Act guarantees the rights to free speech and expression, to life, to liberty, to security, to privacy, to assembly, and to freedom of religion or belief. It prohibits torture and guarantees fair trials and the rule of law.
‘Judicial review is an indispensable mechanism for individuals to assert those rights and freedoms against the power of the state. Any government that cares about freedom and justice should celebrate and protect these vital institutions and never demean or threaten them.’
The coalition has so far been joined by organisations including:
- Homelessness charities: Shelter and the Big Issue Foundation;
- Disability and medical groups: Disability Rights UK, Leonard Cheshire, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National Aids Trust, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB);
- Environmental groups: Greenpeace, Compassion in World Farming, Friends of the Earth, and the Wildlife Trusts;
- Refugee groups: the Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants, Refugee Action, and Scottish and Welsh Refugee Councils;
- Women-focused groups: the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Fawcett Society, Refuge, Birthrights, and the Women’s Budget Group;
- LGBT groups: Stonewall, Peter Tatchell Foundation, the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group, and the Rainbow Project;
- Children’s groups: Save the Children, the National Children’s Bureau, Children England, Children in Scotland, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, Article 39, and Article 12 in Scotland;
- Race equality groups: Race on the Agenda,the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, the Race Equality Foundation, and the Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality;
- Religious groups: British Muslims for Secular Democracy, René Cassin, the Network of Sikh Organisations, and Quakers in Britain;
- Prison reform groups: the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust;
- Free speech groups: Index on Censorship, Article 19, English and Scottish PEN, and Reporters without Borders;
- Human rights and democracy groups: the British Institute of Human Rights, the Equality Trust, Equally Ours, Freedom from Torture, and Unlock Democracy.
Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘The growing body of organisations joining the coalition demonstrates a dedication by many to preserve our human rights framework and access to justice. We hope the Government recognises the success of the Human Rights Act and judicial review over the past two decades in bringing rights home for UK citizens and guaranteeing the rule of law.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read more about the coalition.
Read more about our work on human rights and equality.
Read more about the Government review panel.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.