UK ‘damaging human rights record by ignoring UN’

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Sep 25, 2017
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Britain has declined to support 60 per cent of human rights recommendations made by the UN

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Ministers will severely damage the UK’s reputation for upholding human rights by supporting less than half of the recommendations made by the UN, leading lawyers have argued. 

Whitehall officials told a meeting of the UN’s human rights council last week that the government supported about 40 per cent of the 229 recommendations targeting the UK in a UN report issued last May.

Regarding one recommendation, Julian Braithwaite, Britain’s permanent representative to the UN’s organisations in Geneva, told the commission that the government would only note — as opposed to support — a recommendation that ministers put a time limit on how long a detainee can be held in an immigration centre. The UK is the only European country without such a time limit.

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a partner at the City law firm Pinsent Masons, told the UN that the UK had been a champion of human rights. “But that reputation is now under threat, due to the negative tone of debate from some politicians and many parts of the media around the Human Rights Act, and the potential risk to people’s equality and human rights protections when the UK leaves the European Union.”

Christina Blacklaws, vice-president of the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales, echoed that view. “As Britain foregoes these guiding principles, supporting just 42 per cent of the UN's 229 recommendations on human rights, we undermine our standing globally and our ability to hold other states to account and we disrupt a far wider culture of international co-operation that has been built over many years.

“The consequences are likely to be a society that becomes less safe, less stable and less fair.”

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