Human rights after Brexit

Wednesday 26th April, 6:00pm

Location: Westminster (Please RSVP for more details)

Q&A on Human Rights post-Brexit with Keir Starmer MP, Polly Toynbee, Schona Jolly and Narmada Thiranagama. Moderated by Stewart Wood.

Contributors:

Keir Starmer MP, Shadow Secretary of State for exiting the European Union
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
Schona Jolly QC, International law at Cloisters Chambers
Narmada Thiranagama, Unison
Stewart Wood, Labour Peer, former adviser to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, and Chair of the United Nations Association – UK.

This is an opportunity to quiz Keir Starmer, who is leading Labour’s response to Brexit, on how the Labour Party will seek to ensure a human rights friendly Brexit deal. Keir and the panel will discuss the anti-immigrant feelings that helped lead to Brexit, how Labour should respond to them in the context of the freedom of movement debate and the status of EU nationals living in the UK, and the threat to employment rights and other human rights currently underwritten by the EU.

You must register to attend this event. Please email rachel.finnegan@lchr.org.uk

Calling time on the Prevent strategy

Ahead of tomorrows debate in Parliament we published the following article on Progress:

The government’s Prevent strategy places a statutory obligation on teachers and educators, without any prior background in counter-terrorism, to identify and report students who express so-called extremist views.

On Friday 24 March, members of parliament will be given the opportunity to support the ‘Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (amendment) bill’ which would exempt teachers, carers and nursery staff working in primary schools and early years education from this statutory requirement.

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is supporting the bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Lucy Allan, and calling on Labour MPs to add their support in the House on Friday.

Since July 2015 the Prevent duty has required staff at primary schools and nurseries to spot children who are at risk of radicalisation and, if necessary, report them to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Channel. The legislation requires staff to ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ and Ofsted look closely at how compliant schools and nurseries are. Teachers have raised concerns that a perceived ‘missed’ referral to Channel would have implications for an Ofsted inspection and may result in a rating of ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ from the school’s inspector.

A freedom of information request submitted to the National Police Chief’s Council last year revealed a worrying trend regarding the implications of the statutory duty. The number of referrals rose sharply in the year following the introduction of the duty from 1,681 in 2014 to 3,955 in 2015 and teachers made one third of those referrals. Up to March 2016, 610 children under the age of eight had been reported and there is now an average of one child a week under the age of 10 reported as a result of the Prevent Strategy.

There have been many widely reported cases of very young children being mistakenly referred to Channel and suffering significant distress as a result. The Guardian published a report in February this year of two children aged five and seven who were detained and questioned by the police without parental consent for two hours because of a toy gun. Following a legal claim made by the boys’ parents, Central Bedfordshire council admitted that the teachers had demonstrated ‘a degree of racial stereotyping’ and agreed to pay damages.

Another widely reported incident involved a four year-old who was at risk of being reported for mispronouncing ‘cucumber’, as ‘cooker-bomb’. There was also a case of an eight year-old boy living in east London who was questioned, again without a parent in the room, by social services after wearing a t-shirt which read, ‘I want to be like Abu Bakr al-Siddique’ (Abu Bakr the Truthful). Abu Bakr al-Siddique is believed to be one of the first converts to Islam and not, as teachers had believed, ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ the leader of Daesh.

In all of these cases and many others it is clear that a lack of consistent training is proving problematic for staff. The statutory nature of the duty is forcing teachers to make a judgment on pupils based on a few hours training, often provided by way of a video and then hastily report cases rather than dealing with them in common sense ways. National Union of Teachers members voted unanimously in favour of scrapping the policy at their last conference in Brighton with one delegate claiming it had so far caused ‘suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom’.

A huge part of a young child’s development is built around their relationships with parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers and peers. Making children as young as four, who are unlikely to be able to understand, let alone hold, extremist beliefs, distrustful of adults and suspicious of their peers is clearly counter-productive to their education.

We would urge Labour MPs to add their support to the private members’ bill on Friday. We support the amendment to remove the statutory requirement of Prevent for primary schools and nurseries and encourage the return of safeguarding in early years’ education that is cooperative and voluntary where a reasonable level of suspicion exists.

Briefing on The Prevent Strategy in early years education

We released a briefing today, The Prevent Strategy in early years education.

The Government’s Prevent Strategy places a statutory obligation on teachers and educators, without any prior background in counter-terrorism, to identify and report students who express so-called extremist views.

This briefing, which was sent to all Labour MPs, examines the efficacy of Prevent and highlights the lack of consistent training provided to education professionals. It also argues that since its inception the Prevent strategy has risked encouraging an atmosphere of distrust and discrimination within our schools.

LCHR are supporting Private Members’ Bill, ‘Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Amendment) Bill’ sponsored by Conservative MP Lucy Allan. The bill provides an exemption for teachers, carers and nursery staff working in primary schools and early years education from the statutory requirement of Prevent. The second reading of the bill will take place on 24th March 2017 and we are asking Labour MPs to attend the debate and support the amendment.

Women’s Rights in Burma: An Evening of Discussion

In recognition of International Women’s Day, Catherine West MP will be hosting an event in Parliament on ‘Women’s Rights in Burma: An Evening of Discussion’. 

She will be welcoming Wai Hnin Pwint Thon from the Burma UK campaign, who will be sharing her thoughts on the past, present and future for Women’s Rights in Burma. Following this there will be the opportunity to ask questions.

The event will take place on Monday 27 March 2017 at 7pm in the Attlee Suite. To register please visit the facebook event page here; or email catherine.west.mp@parliament.uk.

A Guest Blog: Labour must stand up for the European Convention on Human Rights

From LCHR member James Greenwood:

The political landscape has changed greatly in the last year. The UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump was elected as president of the United States. The world has become a much more illiberal place and the values which we in the Labour Party hold dear are under threat. Many Conservative politicians see this nationalistic, anti-European climate as the perfect storm under which to take the United Kingdom out of international agreements such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Whilst still home secretary, Theresa May repeatedly voiced her dislike for the ECHR and in a speech last April, she declared that the UK should leave the ECHR, even if the UK voted to remain within the European Union.

The Labour Party must fight against the removal of the UK from the ECHR, which not only helps protect British citizens, but also helps promote international standards of equality, fairness and justice. The ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which implements it currently provide 17 different articles relating to rights and freedoms. Amongst these are the right to life, prohibition of torture, the prohibition of slavery and forced labour, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, no punishment without law, the right to respect for private and family life, the right to participate in free elections and freedom of expression.

Since October 2000 and the implementation of The Human Rights Act (HRA), those protections can now be enforced in the UK. Rather than having to go to Strasbourg, an individual can go to their local court to argue that their human rights have been breached. However, the long awaited British Bill of Rights designed to replace the HRA could alter which protections UK citizens will have access to. By withdrawing from the ECHR and scrapping the HRA, Theresa May is systematically dismantling human rights provisions in the UK.

In the confusion of the UK leaving the European Union, it would be easy for the Labour Party to concentrate its efforts solely on other important areas such as immigration and NHS staffing, and neglect the potential impact that leaving the ECHR could have on our country. It is essential that this does not happen. The Human Rights Act guarantees rights that benefit all UK citizens and assists in the key Labour Party goal of building a better country for its people to live in. It is not there only to serve the interests of Islamic extremists and prison inmates, as some Conservative MPs would like us to believe, but provides the framework upon which our peaceful, considerate society is built.

In front of the ECtHR in Strasbourg there is a piece of the Berlin Wall which serves as a reminder that not so long ago many countries across our continent weren’t united by the human rights which we share today. The repressive Assad dictatorship in Syria and the ongoing civil war is evidence of the extreme consequences of a government ignoring or undermining human rights. Furthermore, many people around the world are being imprisoned for campaigning for the very same rights which we enjoy through our membership of the ECHR. If we do not fight to retain those rights, they will be taken away from us and the Labour Party will have failed not only its members, but the people of our country.

 

 

Article 50 And EU Nationals’ Right To Remain

Today we released our latest briefing, Article 50 and EU Nationals’ Right to Remain.

This briefing, which was sent to all Labour MPs, covers the implications of the recent vote in the House of Lords on amendment 9b to the Article 50 bill. It outlines the reasons that Labour MPs should support EU nationals’ right to remain and recommends that all MPs join the House of Lords and vote to add amendment 9b to Article 50 or vote against the bill.

Public Protection Order

We were concerned to see reports this week about the public spaces protection order in Rochdale and wrote to Rochdale Labour Group to express concern about two aspects in particular – banning swear words and prohibiting under 18s from entering the town centre at certain times.

lettertorochdale

View the letter in pdf format here.