IP Bill becomes law

Last week the Investigatory Powers Bill was approved by both Houses of Parliament, and is now set to become law in a matter of days. LCHR campaigned vigorously against many of the Bill’s provisions over the last 18 months. We argued that mass surveillance, which the Bill authorises, is an unacceptable infringement on privacy and is too open to misuse by the state.

Together with other civil liberties groups we made a concerted effort to challenge the worst of the Bill, and in some areas we were able to work with the Labour Party to win important concessions from the government. We’re proud that Labour secured a ‘double lock’ system of judicial authorisation for intercept warrants and a clause ensuring that mass surveillance powers cannot be used against trade unions conducting lawful activities.

But there was much more that we wanted to see amended in the Bill. Overall, the Investigatory Powers Bill is harmful to our democracy and the bedrock of liberty and privacy on which it stands.

LCHR will continue to look for opportunities to tackle the Bill’s worst provisions in the coming months and years. And we are now looking to expand our campaigning on privacy and liberty in new and important directions. In the next few days we will be launching our members consultation where we will invite views from members on what particular campaign issues you would like us to focus on. If you haven’t yet joined as a member and would like to participate, please join here.

Thank you, as ever, for your continued support.

Best,

Andrew Noakes
Director
Labour Campaign for Human Rights

A Guest Blog: Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Human Rights Act

From LCHR member Scott Forman:

After a summer of considerable discontent everyone is trying to orientate themselves with the consequences of a seismic shift in the British political landscape. Britain’s commitment to the EU has finally broken, exposing economic uncertainty, a rise in hate crime and most worryingly, considerable damage to Britain’s global reputation as a welcoming nation.

LCHR are concerned that having successfully achieved a vote for Brexit, attention will soon turn to the much maligned Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour in 1998. Like EU membership before it, the Act has been battered by years of Conservative criticism and its proverbial breaking would be embodied by its repeal; a Conservative 2015 Manifesto commitment.

The Human Rights Act (HRA) incorporates an international treaty known as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into Britain’s domestic law. Britain ratified the treaty in 1951 and was a driving force behind its conception. Ensuring that the ECHR is complied with, is the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) based in Strasbourg. The judiciary of the court is comprised of legal professionals from the 47 Member States. The court declares whether there has been a violation of the rights protected by the Convention and leaves the Member State to amend their domestic law to make it compatible.

A popular political tactic employed to attack British membership of the European Union was the sacrosanct principle of parliamentary sovereignty. It has also been used to condemn the HRA. Parliamentary sovereignty is the notion that the British Parliament should have supreme power in deciding the future of the country. This unique feature of Britain’s constitutional arrangement has been transformed into a conservative soundbite, a buzz-word, to further an isolationist agenda.

Criticism that the HRA infringes parliamentary sovereignty should not be easily entertained. The Human Rights Act is a well-drafted constitutional instrument that looked to preserve parliamentary sovereignty whilst providing Britain with an essential set of ready-made rights standards. Rulings by the Strasbourg court regarding rights violations are predominately declaratory and it is the national legislature (Parliament) who has the power to implement them. Any legislation introduced that our domestic judiciary find incompatible with the convention, they declare so and it is for Parliament, and Parliament alone, to amend. British Parliament is still the cradle of power under the Human Rights Act but is supplemented by a set of rights that protect the most vulnerable in society. It should not be presented as a Goliath of parliamentary restriction when it isn’t.

The current government are well occupied trying to steady the constitutional crisis that is Britain post-Brexit. The disingenuous nature of their politics has been exposed in a variety of ways but none more so than Theresa May’s proposal to bypass Parliament to trigger the Brexit process. The cherished principle of parliamentary sovereignty has conveniently disappeared from the forefront of her consciousness in relation to this matter; but when needed again it will return. The Human Rights Act needs to be defended and disingenuous calls that it infringes parliamentary sovereignty should not be enough to see its demise.

The European Convention on Human Rights and the British Army

At the 2016 Conservative Party Conference, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed government plans to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts in order to protect soldiers from “spurious” legal claims.

The briefing provides Labour MPs and members with some background to this issue, an overview of the relevant legal framework and the proposed derogation, and our suggestions for how to frame the debate when speaking to members of the public.

LCHR recommends highlighting three key points when speaking to constituents about this issue:

  • The UK is bound by other international and domestic standards to respect human rights in wartime. Derogating from the ECHR would not derogate from these other provisions, but it would send a clear message to the rest of the world that our commitment to human rights is weakening.
  • Our human rights laws have been used to protect and uphold the rights of soldiers serving abroad. Following the invasion of Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has been held to account for inadequate training and resource provision to the British Army and compensation has been paid to the families of victims. The removal of international human rights standards risks removing human rights protection for our troops.
  • Finally, we should be proud to have a military that respects human rights standards. It is key to the integrity of and respect for our Armed Forces. The government’s plans rest on the misguided view that our soldiers are not capable of or willing to abide by these standards and we must therefore remove them. The vast majority of members of the British Army are dedicated to maintaining these high standards and see it is part of their responsibility to remain humane whilst fighting against inhumanity.

We hope that this briefing will be helpful in light of the government’s proposal to derogate from the ECHR and their commitment to scrapping the Human Rights Act. To download in full click here.

What does the future hold for Afghan women?

The Fabian Society’s International Policy Group is hosting a panel discussion on what the future holds for Afghan women.

The Afghan Government still has a battle on its hands against the violations taking place across the country on its women and girls. The panel will discuss what the future looks like for Afghan women alongside increased insecurity across the country.

Chair: Baroness Glenys Kinnock
Orzala Ashraf Nemat
President Ashraf Ghani’s Advisor of Sub-national Governance.
Heather Barr
a Senior Researcher on women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, where she was previously the Afghanistan Researcher.
Quhramaana Kakar – a leading figure in Afghanistan working on women’s empowerment in areas of leadership development through political participation in peace-building.
Horia Mosadiq – an Afghan human rights activist, political analyst and journalist.

Thursday 3rd November, 18:30 – 20:00 

Register for free here.

 

 

From Stephen Lawrence to Hillsborough: the cases that show we can’t trust the state with mass surveillance

 

Please find a link to our latest briefing detailing our concerns with the IP Bill here.

This note addresses the state’s long history of misusing its surveillance powers and asks whether the police and intelligence agencies can really be trusted with mass surveillance. If an exception is necessary for the trade unions, there is strong reason to believe it is necessary for the many other groups who are vulnerable to state spying, not to mention the public at large.

LCHR recommend the following amendments:

• Removing the sections of the IPB proposing bulk retention of internet connection records and bulk equipment interference in their entirety.

• Replacing provisions for bulk communications intercept with targeted intercept only, abolishing the system of general warrants and replacing them with a system of individual warrants issued on the basis of reasonable suspicion.

We hope that this perspective will be helpful for Labour MPs, peers and party members as debate continues on the Investigatory Powers Bill.

Read the briefing in full here.