Monday 10th December was International Human Rights Day, and the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) had this to say to the British Government:

Today, on Human Rights Day, and following a defeated motion supported by 72 MPs to repeal the Human Rights Act, 72 civil society groups call on Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, to secure and advance the Human Rights Act.

Coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights, the signatories represent the diversity and richness of UK civil society, from national organisations like BIHR, Liberty, NCVO and Age UK, to community groups working with disabled people and carers, lawyers and advocates, and international bodies like Amnesty International UK and Human Rights Watch. Across this diversity, what unites the signatories is a fundamental shared belief in the equal dignity of all people and the legal protection of basic human rights.

Reflecting the participation and inclusion themes of this year’s human rights day, the groups raise their collective concern about the direction of travel for the UK human rights debate. On the eve of the report of the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights, the signatories noted that “what should be a healthy debate about how best to secure the human rights of each and every one of us has, for far too long, lacked political leadership.” This, they say, “jeopardises the progress we have made at home in ensuring that our human rights obligations lead to real change for people in their everyday lives.” It also “places our reputation for international human rights leadership at risk.”

The signatories note that “The UK seeks to champion human rights abroad; now is the time to show leadership here at home, to re-connect the debate to the country’s traditional values of fair play and our belief in basic human dignity and justice for everyone.” On this Human Rights Day the signatories call on the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to ensure “the protection of universal human rights is safe in the UK.” For them this means “securing and advancing our Human Rights Act.”

Stephen Bowen, Director of the British Institute of Human Rights, said:

“As Human Rights Day is celebrated across the globe, today is an opportunity for us to reflect on human rights here at home.”

“The Human Rights Act protects us all from the risk of abuse, neglect and injustice. We should be proud to live in a country where human rights are properly protected by the law, by our Human Rights Act. We need to make sure these protections are not put at risk by a lack of leadership.”

“At BIHR we see how the Human Rights Act is vital for all people. We see how the Act is a much-needed helping hand at times of disadvantage or vulnerability, helping to protect us when the system fails. We see how the Act empowers communities to hold decision-makers to account. We see how human rights are at the heart of our place in the world as a democratic and diverse society where people and communities can thrive, and flourish. Sadly, these everyday human rights stories are rarely heard in our current debates.”

On Human Rights Day, 10 December, civil society groups will be holding a photo-call featuring the open letter, at 1.30pm in Parliament Square, the heart of political power. BIHR has also teamed up with local Human Rights Champions, individuals who want to spread the everyday importance of the Human Rights Act in their communities. At lunchtime on the 10 December local “Big Bunting” actions will take place at locations across the UK, using bunting created on BIHR’s 2012 Human Rights Tour.

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