On Wednesday 24th August whilst all this was kicking off something much less important understandably got smothered and went largely unreported among all the fuss. Yes the government decided now was a good time to announce the decision to proceed with plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.
What? Yes I did say "scrap the Human Rights Act", why? problem?
These rights are now set to be scrapped, and replaced by a new pick'n'mix Bill of Rights drafted by Theresa May's Conservative government. Rather than a guaranteed set of rights worked through by human rights champions and lawyers from across Europe, the rights of British people will now be set out by a selected handful of civil servants in Westminster, under the authority of Theresa May. Britain’s new unelected Prime Minister does not have a great record of upholding civil liberties and human rights, she has already pushed forward the Investigatory Powers Bill aka the Snooper’s Charter.
With this in mind, we can expect a bill of rights which protects corporations and government from the public (and the taxpayer), rather than protecting individuals and groups from the threat of overwhelming state and corporate power.
The Human Rights Act of 1998 guarantees every UK citizen the opportunity to defend themselves in domestic courts under rights granted them by the European Convention on Human Rights. As Liberty lays out, these are the rights given by the Act:
- The right to life – protects your life, by law. The state is required to investigate suspicious deaths and deaths in custody;
- The prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment – you should never be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way, no matter what the situation;
- Protection against slavery and forced labour – you should not be treated like a slave or subjected to forced labour;
- The right to liberty and freedom – you have the right to be free and the state can only imprison you with very good reason – for example, if you are convicted of a crime;
- The right to a fair trial and no punishment without law – you are innocent until proven guilty. If accused of a crime, you have the right to hear the evidence against you, in a court of law;
- Respect for privacy and family life and the right to marry – protects against unnecessary surveillance or intrusion into your life. You have the right to marry and raise a family;
- Freedom of thought, religion and belief – you can believe what you like and practise your religion or beliefs;
- Free speech and peaceful protest – you have a right to speak freely and join with others peacefully, to express your views;
- No discrimination – everyone’s rights are equal. You should not be treated unfairly – because, for example, of your gender, race, sexuality, religion or age;
- Protection of property, the right to an education and the right to free elections – protects against state interference with your possessions; means that no child can be denied an education and that elections must be free and fair.
I know signing petitions is armchair activism and doesn't usually make a difference but sometimes it does and it's better than doing nothing at all.