Liberty reaffirms support for marginalised communities and condemns attacks on access to justice

Posted on 22 Jun 2020

  • Liberty’s AGM hears new motions aimed at protecting the most marginalised
  • Issues discussed include breaches of disabled people’s human rights and discrimination faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
  • Members condemn Government attacks on the use of legal action to stand up to power

Liberty members have voted to reaffirm support for the rights of disabled people and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

The new policies were voted through at Liberty’s AGM on Saturday (20 June), when members also passed a motion which recognises the crucial role of legal action in holding the Government to account. Each policy will help inform Liberty’s strategy.

All three motions were passed unanimously by members.

The meeting also heard from the Liberty’s Director Martha Spurrier on what the organisation has been working on during what has been an unprecedented time for civil liberties.

Members heard how the organisation had adapted its work to deal with new and ever-changing legislation and regulations affecting human rights.

Despite all staff working remotely, the organisation has also successfully launched Liberty Investigates, an investigative journalism unit that has already broken several exclusives on various topics including how the coronavirus has affected Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, discriminatory policing under lockdown and how disabled people have been affected by the pandemic.

Attendees also heard how the organisation has been providing on-the-street advice to homeless people affected by lockdown rules, as well as providing advice materials for the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

The meeting was the organisation’s first ever virtual AGM.

As soon as lockdown was announced, Liberty contacted all members to let them know that a smaller AGM would be hosted and that the Policy Council would be given the power to vote on motions to ensure Liberty could continue with ‘business as usual’.

However, elections to Liberty’s Policy Council have been postponed until Liberty members can return their ballot papers by post in recognition that some members may still be shielding during the public health crisis.

Liberty has more than 10,500 members and is the UK’s largest civil liberties organisation.


State violations of human rights of disabled people claiming benefits

Liberty members noted the deaths of people like Errol Graham and Jodey Whiting that have been linked to having benefits stopped, the high rate at which ‘fit for work’ decisions are overturned on appeal and the destruction of reports about benefit-related deaths at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It also noted the mounting evidence of DWP safeguarding failures and the inability to learn lessons or launch an independent inquiry.

Members voted to:

  • Condemn the DWP’s destruction of internal reports into benefit-related deaths
  • Condemn the systematic risk that the structure and processes underpinning the benefits system, including mandatory reconsideration, breach claimants’ human rights.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights

Liberty members reaffirmed support of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights which dates back to the 1960s. These communities are among the most disadvantaged in the UK and suffer huge discrimination and racism. Members welcomed a recent Court of Appeal ruling which reaffirmed that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have an enshrined freedom not to stay in one place.

Members voted to:

  • Oppose Government plans to criminalise trespass and strengthen police powers of eviction, which would lead to further discrimination
  • Reassert long standing solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
  • Resist draconian powers which target these communities

The importance of judicial review

Liberty members restated their commitment to the rule of law, access to justice and the universal protection of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. Judicial review has over the years played a vital role in securing justice, upholding the rule of law and checking abuse of power. Members warned that recent Government pledges on judicial review and the Human Rights Act will weaken the ability of normal people to hold the Government to account.

Members voted to:

  • Condemn any Government proposals that would restrict access to judicial review as a means of challenging decision of public bodies including the Government

About Liberty

Liberty challenges injustice, defends freedom and campaigns for everyone in the UK to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect. We’re an independent membership organisation, and our principles are guided by evidence and expertise – not political agenda, profit or popular opinion.

We use our voice in courtrooms, in the news, on the streets and in politics to demand and deliver lasting change to benefit the many and most marginalised.

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