Campaign set for ‘inspiring’ defence of Human Rights Act


theweeksubDisability charities are set to take part in a campaign they hope will help to save the Human Rights Act from being scrapped.

The Conservative party has consistently threatened to repeal the act and replace it with a new bill of rights, but has so far been unable to legislate because of opposition from its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.

Now a new campaign set up by the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) aims to promote the “fundamental values” that underlie the European Convention on Human Rights, and increase public support for human rights.

The Equally Ours campaign is being supported by seven charities, including Disability Rights UK, Mind and Age UK.

It is being funded through the Thomas Paine Initiative, which focuses on human rights and is itself funded by organisations including the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and the Open Society Foundation.

The campaign is set to be launched later this year, as the Conservative party is reportedly preparing to publish plans to replace the Human Right Act (HRA) with a bill of rights.

In 2011, the coalition set up the Commission on a Bill of Rights, which reported in December 2012 but was split on its conclusions, with seven members saying there was a “strong argument in favour of a UK Bill of Rights”, and two arguing that their colleagues had “failed to identify or declare any shortcomings in the Human Rights Act or its application by our courts”.

In a document posted on EDF’s website, Equally Ours says that it will be “a beacon that humanizes human rights, inspiring everyone to feel that human rights benefit all of us here in the UK, every day, in very practical ways”.

It hopes to reach the one in two UK adults who are “conflicted about, ambivalent or uninterested in human rights”.

The campaign is hoping to win over at least three-quarters of the public to be “fully committed to supporting human rights and the laws that protect them”, and to transform perceptions of human rights as “suspicious, foreign and alien” to “essential for equality and relevant to us all”.

It also pledges to “crush complacency and stop human rights being taken for granted”.

No-one from Disability Rights UK was available to comment on the campaign, but in a statement it said: “For disabled people, human rights are about things like preserving family life: for instance, getting the support you need to live in the same residential home as your partner of 50 years even if funding decisions would place you in different categories of need; or having support before a mental health crisis, to avoid any need to be compulsorily detained when the crisis hits.

“That is why we are part of the Equally Ours programme, with other charities, to highlight the importance of human rights to disabled people’s day to day lives.”

When asked for its current position on the Human Rights Act, the Ministry of Justice said: “This government’s commitment to human rights is not in doubt.

“Human rights contain many of the basic rights and freedoms which have been fundamental to British law for centuries, such as the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture, freedom of speech.

“These rights are still vitally important today in Britain and throughout the world. Repeal or replacement of the Human Rights Act was not in the Coalition Agreement.”

The Conservative party was asked the same question and has so far declined to comment.

15 August 2013