Victims' rights

Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

- Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Human Rights Act

The protection of victims of crime and human rights abuses lies at the heart of human rights law. Many of the rights protected under the Human Rights Act can be limited in the interests of public safety, in order to protect national security or to prevent an offence being committed.

The Human Rights Act also puts positive obligations on the State to protect victims.

The right to life requires the Government to:

  • Prevent arbitrary killings by the security services and police;
  • Put proper laws in place to protect life – including criminalising murder, ensuring convicted dangerous offenders are not released when there is a clear risk to the public, having laws in place to protect safety;
  • Hold a public inquest if a person dies in custody or is killed by the police or security services.


The prohibition against torture and degrading treatment protects victims of torture as well as those who might be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment:

  • either by the State (when a person is in hospital, or detained in a mental health hospital, immigration centre or prison); or
  • where public bodies fail to properly protect vulnerable people from degrading treatment (for example abused children have a right to be protected by social services).


Slavery and forced or compulsory labour have long been offences under international law. But, although the slave trade was abolished hundreds of years ago, it was not until lobbying by Liberty in 2009 that it became an offence in the UK to hold someone in slavery or subject them to forced labour.

Read our press release.