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Election 2024: Leading human rights organisations call for greater scrutiny of human rights policy in campaign period

By Amnesty International UK

June 21, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Liberty, Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, Freedom From Torture and Inclusion London, addressed journalists in Westminster this morning.

Politicians need to see human rights as a solution not a problem.

'Human rights in the UK have too long been cast in political debate as an obstacle' - Sacha Deshmukh

 The UK’s leading human rights organisations have said human rights provide the solutions to some of the biggest problems facing the UK – both domestically and globally - and should not be viewed as a problem, but the answer. The organisations have called for greater scrutiny of human rights policy in the election campaign period.

 Liberty, Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, Freedom From Torture and Inclusion London, addressed journalists at a briefing in Westminster this morning (Thursday 20 June) where they set out the major human rights challenges facing the next Government and proposed areas of policy which should be probed by journalists when interviewing prospective politicians during the campaign period ahead of the election next month.

 Sam Grant, Advocacy Director at Liberty, said: 

“Regardless of who forms the next government, it’s essential that human rights are put at the heart of every decision they make. “Over the past five years, we’ve seen some of our most valued rights and protections shrink across the board. New laws have reduced workers’ rights, migrants’ rights, the right to vote and our right to protest, and these will continue to impact all of us long after the General Election. And as they are eroded away under governments of all stripes, the damage done under one administration can be cemented and deepened under another. Not only must this dangerous trend end, it must be reversed. “It’s crucial that the frameworks that protect our rights in law – the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights – are respected and that we are all able to challenge injustice when it occurs. It is vital that as candidates speak out against these frameworks, they are challenged on what the implications would be. Our human rights frameworks protect us all.” 

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“We need to see all political leaders properly scrutinised over their approach to human rights – they’ve been getting far too easy a ride this election campaign and haven’t been pressed enough on this crucial issue.“It’s not enough to hear a would-be PM being asked simply if they’d be ‘in or out’ of the European Convention on Human Rights. We need to know what they think of the potentially devastating implications departure might have on the fragile peace agreement in Northern Ireland.“Some of the big human rights questions just aren’t being asked: would, for example, the candidates support a UK arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu if the International Criminal Court goes ahead and issues an arrest warrant against the Israeli prime minister?  Would they continue to send UK manufactured arms to Israel despite significant evidence of war crimes in Gaza?“And would the next Government recognise that a decent standard of safe and dignified housing is a human right, and make that right legally enforceable?“Human rights in the UK have too long been cast in political debate as an obstacle, for politicians to deride and out-manoeuvre, but in reality they can provide solutions to the problems we face here, at home, and on the global stage.”

Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director of Human Rights Watch, said:

“This election is a watershed moment for human rights in the UK, and world leaders will be watching closely which direction the UK takes under a new government. Despite its size, the UK wields huge influence on the global stage and the positions the next government adopts are likely to impact on issues as wide ranging as the Middle East to migration.  “Now is not the time for the UK go be adopting a duplicitous approach to critical issues. You can’t champion human rights in China or Iran while simultaneously downplaying or ignoring rights abuses in Palestine or towards refugees. Human rights aren’t something you can cherry pick to suit your political agenda. They are the bedrock of our international rules-based order, a system that is under increasing strain as conflict and climate change rages, and far right movements are taking a foothold across Europe. “A grown-up conversation about human rights is long overdue in the UK. Politicians need to stop treating the issue as a political punching bag, and start seeing the tangible benefits a progressive rights agenda could deliver for the UK and its people: from reasserting Britain’s position on the global stage, through to providing a framework that could insulate the poorest in society and halt the alarming rates of poverty and homelessness we are witnessing.”

Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive at Freedom from Torture, said:

“Wherever you’re from, however you get here, we all deserve safety. The politics of cruelty haven’t worked. We urgently need grown up and compassionate policies, to offer people seeking safety a welcome we can all be proud of. We are calling on candidates from all parties to abandon the politics of hate and division.
“No one should experience torture. People who’ve survived the most unimaginable horrors need sanctuary. They need to heal, to feel safe and strong again, and to have the chance to rebuild their lives. Instead of keeping company with authoritarian states, the UK must show global leadership and restore our reputation for upholding the international rule of law.

“Hundreds of thousands of caring people up and down the country are standing with survivors and refugees demanding compassionate policies that treat those fleeing torture and persecution with humanity and dignity. It’s time for the politicians seeking power to finally catch up to what the people want, and to rebuild a humane and efficient asylum system.” 


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