Where now for human rights?
The pace of political events is accelerating – that’s clear from the fact that a general election has been called and held since our last newsletter.
During the election campaign, René Cassin worked to ensure that human rights were at the forefront of the debate – we analysed the party manifestos and suggested five key human rights questions for all candidates.
Now the post-election dust is beginning to settle – what are the major challenges and opportunities that face human rights in the immediate future? That’s the question we recently put to a roundtable panel of experts – led by Times columnist David Aaronovitch. Read an outline of their assessment here.
One person very well qualified to gauge the future of human rights is Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer. Before being elected to Parliament in 2015, Keir was a leading human rights lawyer who later became Director of Public Prosecutions.
Our event ‘Keir Starmer in conversation with Jo Coburn’ – postponed because of the election – will now go ahead on the evening of Tuesday 17 October at JW3 in London. This will be a popular event – so book early to ensure your chance to put his expertise to the test.
Never mind the future, in Hungary human rights are under attack in the here-and-now. In May, our René Cassin Fellowship Programme visited Budapest to meet those on the front line of the nationalist government’s clampdown on minorities.
Depressing and worrying, yes – but one Fellow was inspired by the activists – many of them Jewish – who are “resisting the regime at every turn”.
“Imagine that everything is taken away from you. You have 45 days to rebuild. And the clock is ticking.”
This is the nightmare future facing victims of modern slavery – not at the hands of their captors, but from the government, which currently withdraws support for slavery survivors after just 45 days. Will Bordell argues that this is “like putting a plaster on a broken bone and commanding it to heal”. We should follow the example of the Welsh and Scottish governments – which have both increased support for survivors of slavery.
Because we were slaves …
René Cassin has teamed up with RSY-Netzer to step into the breach left by such paltry state support. We are supporting Sheffield charity Snowdrop, which refurbishes accommodation for slavery survivors. Just £300 can transform a dilapidated flat into a real home … and a springboard to a more stable life.
Hate crime has risen since the Brexit vote last year. This is not a cold statistic – the 16-year-old daughter of one of our trustees was punched and kicked in an anti-Semitic attack last month.
But all minorities are affected. René Cassin has been supporting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups on this issue – and it’s a sign of real progress that, in the latest edition of its manifesto, the Board of Deputies announces that it “… is working with René Cassin to raise awareness of the racism and other challenges faced by the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in Britain”.
Equality before the law is a key human rights value. But, currently, hate crimes aimed at disabled or LGBT+ individuals attract more lenient sentences than those based on race or religion.René Cassin recently joined 74 other organisations in calling for an equalisation of the law.
Writing in the Jewish News Online, René Cassin’s Sam Grant welcomes the Solicitor General’s announcement of the Government’s desire to “… craft a suitable response to get the law right”.
Our namesake left a legacy of human rights. Will you?
Monsieur René Cassin was one of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the civilised nations’ response to the horrors of the Holocaust.
We are committed not only to keeping René Cassin’s name alive but, more importantly, building on his legacy – by providing a strong Jewish voice working to protect and promote the human rights of vulnerable individuals and communities.
Will you help us? If, like Monsieur Cassin, you’d like human rights to be your lasting legacy, download our leaflet to find out how you can include a gift to support our work in your Will.