Tuesday 20 February 2018

Stars stand up for Human Rights Act

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch is among a group of actors to voice their opposition to the Government's proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act.

The Sherlock star, Homeland's David Harewood, Game Of Thrones actress Indira Varma, Vanessa Redgrave and Simon Callow have appeared in short films based on experiences of people who have relied on the legislation.

Proposals to replace the Act with a British bill of rights are expected to be included in the Queen's Speech today.

Cumberbatch said: "Our Human Rights Act belongs to all of us. It's not for politicians to pick and choose when they apply or who deserves protection.

"Repealing it will mean less protection against state abuse or neglect, and weaken the rights of every single one of us - and the vulnerable most of all."

Varma said: "Our Human Rights Act protects every one of us - young or old, wealthy and poor, civilian or soldier.

"It is a cause for pride and celebration, not a pawn in a dangerous political game. It is ours and no one is taking it from us without a fight."

Callow said: "The Human Rights Act is one of the few laws that enables us to hold the powerful to account.

"No surprise then that the Government wants to scrap it. The Act is a triumph of British values; we abandon it at our peril."

Cases involving the Act which are featured in the films include:

:: The securing of a fresh inquest into the death of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, who killed herself two years after she alleged she was raped

:: A ruling that Poole Borough Council, which spied on Jenny Paton and her family to check if they were living in the right school catchment area, breached their right to privacy

The clips were created as part of Liberty's Save Our Human Rights Act campaign.

The group's d irector Shami Chakrabarti said: " These films tell just a few of the stories of our Human Rights Act giving a voice to some of the most vulnerable people in our country.

"Soldiers, journalists, victims of rape, domestic violence and slavery all found justice thanks to Churchill's Legacy.

"Government plans to scrap the Act play populist games with hard-won freedoms and undermine the United Kingdom at home and abroad."

Debate over the Act has been reignited after the Tories' election victory.

They pledged in their manifesto to introduce a bill of rights which "will restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK" and " reverse the mission creep that has meant human rights laws being used for more and more purposes and often with little regard for the rights of wider society".

They say it will stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals from using "spurious" human rights arguments to prevent deportation.

They want to break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, making the UK's Supreme Court the "ultimate arbiter" of human rights matters.

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham defended the Human Rights Act, suggesting it could have helped the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, he said: " Of course, there have been occasions when the Act has been misused - and these have been widely reported. But there are many other examples where it has helped vulnerable people stand up for themselves against government agencies, public bodies and large corporations.

"For instance, if the Human Rights Act had been in force at the time of the Hillsborough disaster, it might have given the families more ability to fight the appalling abuse of power they have suffered for 26 years."

Press Association

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