Protest rights

Britain’s rights and freedoms in ‘rapid decline’ according to international monitor

Posted on 23 Sep 2021

  • Policing Bill poses ‘serious and unprecedented’ threat according to new report
  • Liberty repeats call for Ministers to scrap dangerous laws
  • Intervention echoes three UN Rapporteurs and broad coalition condemning Bill

Liberty has called for Ministers to scrap the controversial Policing Bill after international human rights monitors placed the UK on a watchlist of countries where activism is becoming rapidly more restricted by Government.

In a report released today, Thursday 23 September, Civicus, an organisation that monitors openness of civil society around the world, warns that the Bill, which gives police further powers to crackdown on protests, “poses a serious and unprecedented threat to civic freedoms in the country”.

Liberty has been campaigning against the Policing Bill, which also creates new stop and search powers and a “Serious Violence duty” that health and social care professionals say would breach their professional duty of confidentiality and put young people at risk. It also includes provisions that could criminalise the way of life of Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The Bill has caused widespread outrage and a growing groundswell of objection to the Government’s dangerous proposals, including:

  • Over 600,000 people signed a petition against the Bill coordinated between human rights groups, environmentalists, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller advocates and other charities.
  • Over 350 charities signed a letter calling for the Bill to be scrapped.
  • Over 700 academics called for the Bill to be dropped.
  • Three UN Special Rapporteurs warned the Bill threatens our rights.
  • Polling found nearly two thirds of the public are concerned about the protest crackdown.
  • Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said its proposals are “oppressive and wrong”.

Liberty has also warned that the Bill is one part of a larger campaign by the Government to remove itself from accountability and undermine everyone’s ability to stand up to power.

Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty, said: “We all want to know that our elected Governments stand to protect the basic principles of democracy. But while the coronavirus pandemic raged, the UK Government continued working to put itself beyond accountability.

“The Policing Bill threatens the right to protest for all of us, and puts at greater risk some of the most marginalised communities in the UK. Alongside this, the Government’s voter ID plans will disenfranchise millions of those already most under-represented in the political system. Its plan to amend the court system and Human Rights Act will make it harder for all of us to protect our basic rights.

“In court, in Parliament, and on the streets, this Government is dismantling the tools we use to hold it to account, to protect our rights and stand up to power. People are waking up to this agenda and, as we have seen from growth in Liberty’s support, are coming together to resist this power grab.”

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