Human Rights Act, ECHR and Government accountability / Policing

Liberty members vote on new policy at AGM

Posted on 25 May 2021

  • Liberty’s AGM hears new motions to hold those in power to account
  • Issues discussed include over-policing and Government accountability
  • Members restate commitment to rights based pandemic response

Liberty members have reaffirmed their commitment to stand up to power and hold the Government to account.

New policies were voted through at Liberty’s AGM on Saturday (23 May), when members passed a motion which condemns the Government’s over-reliance on policing and criminal justice to deal with socio-economic and public health issues.

Members also voted to continue work resisting the Government’s attempt to make itself untouchable by weakening systems of accountability, and passed a motion reaffirming their commitment to developing a rights-focused pandemic response which protects everyone.

All three motions were passed unanimously by members, and the new policies will inform Liberty’s strategy for the coming year.

The meeting also heard from the Liberty’s director Gracie Bradley on what the organisation has been working on during what has been an unprecedented time, including adapting to deal with new and ever-changing legislation and regulations affecting human rights.

The meeting was the organisation’s second virtual AGM. Liberty is the UK’s largest civil liberties organisation.

Detail of motions:

Reliance on policing

Liberty members affirmed Liberty’s role in monitoring and responding to the abuse of police power, and registered concern at the repressive legislation being proposed by this Government to increase the powers of the police, through the proposed Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill. Members also noted the sweeping powers handed to the police in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Members recognised that policing institutions, powers and practices are institutionally racist, and noted with grave concern that roughly 183 people of colour have died following police contact in England and Wales in the last 30 years. They also recognised the ways in which police powers – such as Stop and Search, the Gangs Matrix and Prevent – disproportionately affect communities of colour.

They also recognised the state has a responsibility to protect people from human rights violations, including interpersonal violence and other forms of harm.

Members voted to:

  • Condemn the Government’s reliance on criminal justice to deal with issues – including youth violence, immigration, and homelessness – and the extension in reach of the police into public services like the NHS and schools.
  • Condemn any Government proposals that would increase police powers without evidence that any proposal is safe, effective, necessary and proportionate.
  • Commit to working so with the communities and grassroots groups most affected by discriminatory, ineffective and disproportionate policing to find alternative solutions. Members committed to do this through health, education, housing and social welfare systems that prioritise strategies for community safety and address the root causes of violence, while reducing the need for police interventions.

Protecting human rights frameworks

Liberty members reaffirmed support for Liberty’s ongoing campaign to protect both the Human Rights Act and judicial review – which are crucial in allowing individuals to hold the state to account and enforce their rights. They expressed deep concern at the Government’s repeated attempts to water down human rights protections through measures in the Overseas Operations Bill and the passage of the Internal Markets Act, as well as proposals for the upcoming Sovereign Borders Bill.

Members noted these measures are part of the Government’s wider attack on accountability and the rule of law, which includes moves to centralise power within the executive, to evade parliamentary scrutiny, and to undermine public confidence in the legal profession.

Members voted to:

  • Oppose the Government’s sustained attempts to weaken the laws and frameworks which allow ordinary people to stand up to power.

Protecting everyone in the pandemic

Members reaffirmed that Liberty has throughout this pandemic and before, supported proportionate measures to save lives. They also noted that national crises are often a time when rights are in danger, and that emergency rights-infringing measures should not become permanent.

Members voted to:

  • Strongly oppose the Coronavirus Act 2020 – which was rushed through Parliament last March and remains on the statute books – as it severely endangers civil liberties.
  • Condemn those aspects of the Government’s approach to the pandemic which have simultaneously watered-down human rights, evaded accountability and democracy, and left marginalised communities behind.
  • Committ to championing an approach to dealing with the pandemic that focuses on protecting everyone’s human rights – and that prioritises public health rather than criminalisation and division.

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