Save the Human Rights Act

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015

Human Rights are Equally Ours

Sometimes you can’t appreciate the value of something until it is taken away. So it is with human rights.

Here is Ruth Barnett, talking about why she believes that as a Holocaust survivor human rights are vital for everyone.The government has announced its intention to ‘bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights’. That sounds innocent enough, but behind it lies the desire to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a law that would weaken our rights.. Join us in encouraging the government to protect the Human Rights Act and to bolster it.

The Human Rights Act doesn’t just protect the rights of vulnerable people and minorities, it protects all of us. But that protection could be seriously limited if the Act is repealed, amended or replaced. René Cassin believes that Jewish people have an important stake in this debate.

René Cassin, the French-Jewish co-drafter of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights said: “Human rights are an integral part of the faith and tradition of Judaism.” But he knew that faith and tradition were not enough – rights could only be guaranteed by being enshrined in international and domestic law.

Recognition of the need to protect human rights, and the framework of international agreements to protect them, sprang directly from the Holocaust. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights both emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War as practical expressions of the determination to prevent such horrors recurring.

The rights guaranteed in the European Convention and, more recently, the Human Rights Act, speak directly to the Jewish experience. At their root is the notion that all humans are vested with a dignity that governments have a duty to protect.

Just by being there, the Human Rights Act has protected us from abuse of power by the state. That protection is often subtle, and means that we don’t have to resort to the courts to claim the rights we take for granted. For example, the Human Rights Act ensures that all UK public bodies  (such as courts, police, local councils, hospitals, and publicly funded schools) and other bodies carrying out public functions respect our rights as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights include:

  • the right to life
  • freedom from torture and degrading treatment
  • freedom from slavery and forced labour
  • the right to liberty
  • the right to a fair trial.

These rights apply to everyone, irrespective of their race, gender, religion or other protected status.

Want to know more?

Do we need a Bill of Rights? Read through our 2012 response to the commission on a Bill of Rights

What are the facts? Have a look through our Human Rights Act Fact Sheet

Read this opinion piece from our Campaigns Manager Sam Grant: Britain risks destroying human rights protection of millions

Find out whether there is a specific Jewish view on human rights legislation here.

Listen to René Cassin’s Simone Abel defending the Human Rights Act here.