Every manifesto must commit to human rights

Posted by Martha Spurrier on 19 April 2017

So there it is – a General Election on Thursday 8 June.

As manifestos are frantically drawn up, Liberty calls on all political parties to take this chance to take a stand for the principles and laws that protect the rights of ordinary people across the UK, day in, day out.

We urge them to commit to protecting our Human Rights Act and maintaining our membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Convention is one of our country’s proudest achievements. Drafted by UK lawyers and politicians in the aftermath of the Second World War, it is a list of essential rights that the powerful must respect and protect, defending each and every one of us from abuses of State power.

For 60 years, it has been crucial in supporting democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Europe and around the world. It provides a beacon of hope and inspiration for others still fighting for the most basic freedoms the world over.

Since 1998, the Convention has been incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act – meaning we can have our rights protected here, in UK courts.

The Human Rights Act’s impact has been felt across society in the 15 years since it came into force. It has made life in our country better and fairer.

Not just for those – like the Hillsborough families – who have used it to overcome whitewashing and seemingly insurmountable odds to find truth and justice.

But for the millions of people who benefit from the improvements in our laws, policies and practice that have emerged from living in a country where our human rights are directly enforceable and public bodies are obliged to protect and uphold them.

The Human Rights Act cannot undo some of the worst mistakes or intentional harm caused by others, or by the State, but it can offer answers and help identify systemic problems that need to be remedied so that others’ suffering can be avoided in the future.

It is also a vital component of the devolution settlements with the different nations of the UK. Its repeal would risk breaching the Good Friday Agreement.

Challenging unfairness and choosing equality over discrimination – we need to back these principles now more than ever. And that’s exactly what the Human Rights Act and the Convention do. They make sure our Government treats everyone fairly.

Human rights are not a commodity to be negotiated away – be it our membership of the Convention, our Human Rights Act, or the rights currently protected by the European Union legal framework. 

If it wants to build a fair, thriving, united country, our next Government must place respect for our rights and freedoms at the heart of its vision for the UK.

We urge all political parties to take this chance – show the people we can trust you with our rights.

Martha Spurrier

Martha Spurrier