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Human Rights Act’s “importance to the Jewish community cannot be overstated”

Posted on Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Rabbis write to Prime Minister to protect our human rights 

Over twenty rabbis and members of Jewish organisations joined with people from other faiths and belief in a joint appeal to protect the Human Rights Act from any measures that would make it difficult for people to access their fundamental human rights. 

The letter was sent to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson on Wednesday 9th June 2021. 

René Cassin coordinated the Jewish involvement in this initiative. As Jews, we recognise all too well the horrors of persecution and discrimination and how our human rights framework – The European Convention on Human Rights, on which the Human Rights Act is based – was Europe’s response to this. 

In particular, our Human Rights Act protects the right to freedom of religion. 

As just one example of how the Act has worked in relation to this, in 2018 Adath Yisroel Burial Society used the Human Rights Act to change Coroners’ Guidance to prioritise cases for religious reasons. This made it possible for burials of Muslims and Jews to take place on the day of the death or as soon as possible thereafter as both religions require. More on the significance of this ruling in this blog.

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Rabbi Emeritus, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, one of the signatories to the interfaith letter, stated “the Human Rights Act is an essential expression of our values as a society committed to equality, justice and dignity for all – not least, for the most vulnerable and marginal, whose rights demand vigilant protection.” 

Jewish News reported on the letter (“14 rabbis, Jewish campaigners urge Boris Johnson not to review Human Rights Act”, 15 June 2021) quoting René Cassin’s Mia Hasenson-Gross: “[The Act] protects victims of crime, the wrongly accused, disabled people, the mistreated, and the elderly. It has allowed countless people to pursue justice here in the UK and is an instrument founded on values which should be respected, not diminished”.

Read our full submission

René Cassin’s response to call for evidence by the Independent Human Rights Act Review

The issues detailed provide examples of the importance of the Human Rights Act in improving people’s lives in the UK, particularly vulnerable groups such as refugees and asylum seekers, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, people who have been trafficked and other minorities. However, the Human Rights Act is a safety net that protects us all.

It signifies the importance of enabling people to rely on a domestic safeguarding framework where they can raise legal claims in the UK under the Human Rights Act. Human rights are the essential tools that empower us to stand up to people in power, and to create a stronger, fairer, more compassionate UK.

Drawing on Jewish experience, we cannot support any attempt to weaken a framework that gives practical expression to the idea that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and receive equal access to justice. The Human Rights Act protects victims of crime, the wrongly accused, disabled people, the mistreated, and the elderly. It has allowed countless people to pursue justice here in the UK and is an instrument the values of which should be respected, not diminished.

Reducing human rights protection here would also serve to undermine human rights progress around the world and have worrying ramifications for vulnerable Jewish communities across Europe.

This is an issue that strikes at the heart of both our specifically Jewish and our universal sensibilities. In conclusion, the importance of the Human Rights Act to the Jewish community cannot be overstated.

Read our full submission

Read The Human Rights Act has a place in Jewish hearts René Cassin’s Debora Singer’s blog in Jewish News – 7 March 2021