Over 100 civil society groups call for political leaders to recognise the value of human rights here at home

Today people across the world celebrate global Human Rights Day, a time to remember the everyday importance of human rights in protecting human dignity and providing a check on Government power.

Here in the UK over 100 civil society groups, representing people from all walks of life have come together to ask our political leaders to acknowledge “the vital role of human rights in ensuring a fair and healthy democracy, helping us all to live with dignity and respect.”

The safety net provided by human rights connects local and national groups, working with carers, people with dementia and mental health problems, older people, disabled people, refugees, people experiencing discrimination and harassment, those who protect our young people and victims of crime, and seek to safeguard a healthy and fair democracy. This commitment to the value of human rights in our everyday lives joins together such groups with Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch and domestic organisations like the British Institute of Human Rights and Liberty.

In their joint letter these voluntary groups – who represent millions of people across the country – ask our political leaders:
 

“…to ensure the UK’s recent commitments at the United Nations Human Rights Council to ‘work tirelessly for the promotion and protection of human rights, both domestically and abroad’ are made a reality.”

“We hope that the UK will stand firm on the European Convention on Human Rights and our Human Rights Act…providing vital protections to everyone here at home. There is much to do to ensure these human rights have meaning for all people in the UK; our political debates and action should focus on making this happen rather than taking us away from the universal human rights standards long-championed by the UK.”

Stephen Bowen, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights, said:

“Human rights are the shared values of the whole human family. Today, as people across the world celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we should remember this is the inspiration for the European Convention on Human Rights and our own Human Rights Act.”

“Rather than point-scoring we hope our political leaders will see what we see, that the Act helps set the rule book for government, making sure they play fair, providing a vital safety net which means we can all live well together, respecting each other’s rights and accepting our responsibilities to safeguard the common good. Our Human Rights Act is the foundation for making this a reality – ensuring our rights and freedoms are protected by the law of this land, this is something to celebrate on Human Rights Day.”

Ends

Notes to Editors

1.    For media queries and comments please contact Sanchita Hosali, Deputy Director, BIHR on shosali@bihr.org.uk or 0207 882 5850 (out of hours: 07811 457343)

2.    The civil society Human Rights Day letter, coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights, will be available here on the 10 December, and will be published in the letters page of the Daily Telegraph

3.     BIHR is an independent national charity working to bring rights to life across the UK by supporting people to know, apply and protect their human rights. Since the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998, we have specialised in taking human rights beyond the courtroom, making the law accessible and translating it into practical tools for people and organisations to apply in everyday life to ensure we are all treated with dignity and respect. For more information visit www.bihr.org.uk  / @BIHRhumanrights. For examples of how the Human Rights Act helps people in their everyday life, including older people and carers, families, and disabled people, please contact Sanchita Hosali, Deputy Director, BIHR on shosali@bihr.org.uk or 0207 882 5850 (out of hours: 07811 457343). 

4.    The 106 signatories to the letter are:

·         Stephen Bowen and Professor Francesca Klug, Director and Chair of British Institute of Human Rights
·         Asif Afridi, Co-Chair, English Regions Equality and Human Rights Network
·         Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
·         Amanda Ariss, Chief Executive, Equality and Diversity Forum
·         Tom Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People
·         Rob Berkeley, Director, Runnymede Trust
·         Adrian Berry, Chair, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association
·         Keith Best, Chief Executive Officer, Freedom From Torture
·         Julie Bishop, Director, Law Centres Network
·         Carol Boys, Chief Executive, Down’s Syndrome Association
·         Zrinka Bralo, Executive Director, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum
·         Paul Breckell, Chief Executive, Action on Hearing Loss
·         Susan Bryant, Director, Rights Watch UK
·         Linda Burnip, Co-Founder, Disabled People Against Cuts
·         Jabeer Butt, Deputy Chief Executive, Race Equality Foundation
·         Annie Campbell, Director, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland
·         Neil Campbell, CEO, Alternative Futures Group
·         Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary, the Royal College of Nursing
·         Rita Chadha, Chief Executive Officer, Refugee & Migrant Forum of East London
·         Shami Chakrabarti CBE, Director, Liberty
·         Professor Sara Chandler, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Law Society
·         Ann Chivers, Chief Executive, BILD (British Institute of Learning Disabilities)
·         Karen Chouhan, Chair, Equanomics
·         Barbara  Cohen, Chair Discrimination Law Association
·         Andrew Copson, Chief Executive British Humanist Association
·         Martin Coyle, Director, Trust Voice
·         Sister Colette Cronin, Congregational Leader, Institute of Our Lady of Mercy Sisters of Mercy
·         Frances Crook, Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
·         Lynda Dearlove, MBE Chief Executive, Officer women@thewell
·         Helen Shaw and Deborah Coles, Co-Directors INQUEST
·         Tom Doyle, Chief Executive, Yorkshire MESMAC Group of Services
·         Holly Dustin, Director, End Violence Against Women (EVAW)
·         Dr Mark Ellis, Executive Director International Bar Association
·         Pat Elsmie, Director, Migrants’ Rights Scotland,
·         Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Voluntary Organisations
·         Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive Officer, Fawcett
·         Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
·         Gary Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Action on Elder Abuse
·         Don Flynn, Director, Migrants Rights Network
·         Alison Gelder, Chief Executive, Housing Justice
·         Penelope Gibbs, Director, Transform Justice
·         Brian Gormally, Director, CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice)
·         Carolina Gottardo, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Services
·         Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive Officer, English Community Care Association
·         Andy Gregg, Chief Executive, ROTA (Race on the Agenda)
·         Rob Greig, Chief Executive, National Development Team for Inclusion
·         Paula Hardy, Chief Executive, Welsh Women’s Aid
·         Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive, Scope
·         Jeff Hawkins, Chief Executive, Age Connect Wales
·         Vivienne Hayes, Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Resource Centre
·         Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive, Carers UK
·         Steve Hynes, Director, Legal Action Group (LAG)
·         Deborah Jack, Chief Executive, NAT (National Aids Trust)
·         Vaughan Jones, Chief Executive, Praxis
·         Joyce Kallevik, National Director, Wish
·         Des Kelly OBE, Executive Director, National Care Forum
·         Faiza Khan, Deputy Chief Executive, National Council for Voluntary Youth Services
·         Abdul Khan, Chief Executive Officer, BECON
·         Maia Kruger, Coordinator, Songololo Feet
·         Ratna Lachman, Director, JUST West Yorkshire
·         Shauneen Lambe, Director, Just for Kids Law
·         Marai Larasi MBE, Executive Director, Imkaan
·         Annette Lawson,  Chair, NAWO
·         Annette Lawson, Chair, Judith Trust
·         Shauna Leven, Director, Rene Cassin
·         David Mepham, UK Director, Human Rights Watch
·         Wayne Myslik, Chief Executive, Asylum Aid
·         Polly Neate, Chief Executive Officer, Women’s Aid
·         Peter Newell, Coordinator, Children are unbeatable! Alliance
·         Priscilla Nkwenti, Chief Executive BHA for Equality
·         Kunle Olulode, Chief Executive Voice4Change England
·         Naana Otoo-Oyortey OBE, Executive Director FORWARD
·         Simon Parkinson, Director for External Relations & Communities Royal Mencap Society
·         Kath Parson, Chief Executive Older Peoples Advocacy Alliance
·         Elizabeth Prochaska, Founder, Birthrights
·         Dr Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director The Equal Rights Trust
·         Dave Prentis, General Secretary UNISON
·         Habib Rahman, Chief Executive JCWI
·         Mohammed Razaq, Executive Director West of Scotland Regional Equality Council Ltd
·         Bridget Robb, Chief Executive Officer British Association of Social Workers
·         Ewan Roberts, Manager Asylum Link
·         Paul Roberts, Chief Executive Officer LGBT Consortium
·         Sarah Rochira, The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
·         Revd Roberta Rominger, General Secretary The United Reformed Church
·         Alexandra Runswick, Director Unlock Democracy
·         Jago Russell, Chief Executive, Fair Trials International
·         Eithne Rynne, Chief Executive Officer, London Voluntary Services Council
·         Caroline Sagar, Chief Executive n-compass NorthWest
·         Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director United Nations Association – UK
·         Liz Sayce OBM Chief Executive Officer Disability Rights UK
·         Emma Scott, Director Rights of Women
·         Damien Short, Director Human Rights Consortium, University of London
·         Hannana Siddiqui, Coordinator Southall Black Sisters
·         Samantha Smethers, Chief Executive Grandparents Plus
·         Carol Storer, Director Legal Aid Practitioners Group
·         Robert Sutherland, Convener SCOLAG
·         Andy Thornton, Chief Executive Citizenship Foundation
·         Paola Uccellari, Director Children’s Rights Alliance for England
·         Aneeta Prem and Vineeta Thorhill, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Freedom Charity
·         Debbie Walker, Chief Executive Age UK East London
·         Paul Ward, Acting Chief Executive Terrance Higgins Trust
·         Phillip Watson, Chief Executive Manor Gardens Welfare Trust
·         Chris Whitwell, Director Friends, Families and Travellers
·         Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, Refugee Council
·         Patrick Yu, Executive Director Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities
·         Prof Katja Ziegler, Director, Centre for European Law and Internationalism

5.       The letter reads:

Dear Sirs

Sixty-five years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), we ask political leaders to acknowledge the continued relevance of human rights both on the global stage and here at home. As leaders of civil society groups we see the vital role of human rights in ensuring a fair and healthy democracy, helping us all to live with dignity and respect. Yet, while across the world human rights are so often the inspiration for domestic law, here at home they rarely feature in current Westminster rhetoric.

This Human Rights Day, we ask political leaders to ensure that the UK’s recent commitments at the United Nations Human Rights Council to ‘work tirelessly for the promotion and protection of human rights, both domestically and abroad’ are made a reality. We hope that the UK will stand firm on the European Convention on Human Rights and our Human Rights Act, both inspired by the UDHR and providing vital protections to everyone here at home. There is much to do to ensure these human rights have meaning for all people in the UK; our political debates and action should focus on making this happen rather than taking us away from the universal human rights standards long-championed by the UK.