New Campaigns 2017!

Following a very successful members consultation at the end of 2016 and some wider discussion with our advisory board and civil society, we are pleased to announce three new campaigns:

Refugees and Immigration

 Amid growing anti-immigrant sentiment, we will be working to tackle discrimination in the immigration and asylum systems and ensure that immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees are treated fairly and humanely.

Following the Brexit vote, we will also be working to protect the rights of EU residents currently living in the UK, including their residency rights, employment rights, and their access to healthcare and education.

It is crucial that we put pressure on the government in this heated political environment and do not let them ignore the rights of those who need our help the most.

Human rights in counter-terrorism

Following the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016 and amid the government’s efforts to develop an effective counter-extremism strategy, LCHR will be using this campaign to stimulate a debate among Labour members, MPs and civil society on how to balance security with human rights.

Today, counter-terrorism and counter-extremism programmes allow security services unprecedented access to our personal communications data. Meanwhile, the controversial Prevent programme has not only interfered with human rights, but alienated large sections of UK society, fostering an atmosphere of mistrust and surveillance in schools, nurseries and within wider society. Our campaign will be inclusive of all of these elements.

The Human Rights Act

The Conservatives have pledged to repeal the HRA and have threatened to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. We are campaigning to equip the Labour Party with the best possible defence of the HRA and ECHR to ensure your rights and privileges are protected.

The ECHR and HRA have given critical protection to people facing all sorts of challenging circumstances. In Britain they have been used to help women fleeing domestic violence, stop cases of modern day slavery, ensure equal treatment for LGBT people, prevent older people from being separated from their husbands and wives in care, stop discrimination in the workplace, and maintain the ban on corporal punishment in schools.

Since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act of 2012, the government has been chipping away at the types of legal aid that are available to the most vulnerable in society. The types of cases no longer included are some family cases, education cases which do not involve special educational needs, most debt matters, welfare benefits cases that don’t reach the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court and many cases involving employment and homelessness. We will be campaigning to protect legal aid amid these cuts.

We’re hugely excited to get started on our new campaigns and will have more details on upcoming projects and events to follow. For details on how to get involved in any of our campaigns email rachel.finnegan@lchr.org.uk

CLP motion passed by Camborne, Redruth & Hayle

Labour activists in Camborne, Redruth & Hayle have this week passed a CLP motion in response to the government’s invasive Investigatory Powers Bill. The bill, passed in November of last year, forces internet and communications companies to collect and store everyone’s personal communications data, such as information about who we email, which websites we visit, and where we are when we send messages. It also allows the government to hack into our phones and computers, and could be used to force companies providing secure messaging, such as Whatsapp, to remove encryptions designed to protect our privacy.

Members were rightly concerned that the wide reaching legislation gives surveillance powers to too many government agencies and that these should be reserved for the most serious cases where there is already a reasonable level of suspicion. Activists resolved that the Labour Party should work to ensure the right balance between privacy and security and take forward plans for a Charter of Digital Rights that protects both.

You can read the motion in full here.

Rebutting arguments for a British Bill of Rights

We’re pleased to present our latest briefing, ‘Rebutting arguments for a British Bill of Rights‘, which will go out to all LCHR supporters, Labour MPs, and peers.

In the absence of concrete proposals from the government on its planned British Bill of Rights, we’ve trawled through the various arguments and ideas that have been deployed in its favour over the last few years to create a definitive rebuttal guide.

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.