Human Rights – Act Now!

Here Dr Robin Redhead, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and BA (Hons) Politics Course Leader, reports on a talk about the role, importance and future of Human Rights in our week long Politics and Applied Global Ethics Festival (see #PAGEfest on Twitter or Eventbrite to book).

Day Two of the Leeds Beckett Politics Festival 2015 closed with Sanchita Hosali, the Deputy Director of the British Institute of Human Rights informative and illuminating talk Magna Carta to the Modern Day: The Journey of Universal Human Rights Protections.

Explaining how the Magna Carta was a key piece of early legislation in the effort for citizens to hold those in power to account, she traced the trajectory of accountablity from Magna Carta to the modern day UK Human Rights Act. She shared examples of the work BiHR do and noted that these stories never make it to the newspapers because the media are reluctant to publish positive human rights pieces.

She spoke of how when empowered by knowledge of their human rights, citizens were able to advocate for proper care in the health system, proper treatment within social services and from the police. Invoking the Human Rights Act has ensured protection of the right to life (Article 2), the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), and the right to liberty (Article 5) to name a few.

She stated clearly that the threat to the Human Rights Act is a terrible blow to the people of the UK. It is paramount that we maintain the ability to hold the state accountable to its citizens.

In essence the Human Rights Act is about government, the state, power and people. Governments often struggle with the protection of human rights precisely because human rights protect people from the government.

However, Sanchita urged that the UK has a long history of involvement in the drafting, implementing and protection of human rights. It seems incongruous for the UK to now decide to withdraw that commitment to its own people.

Sanchita left the audience with one final thought: If we were to hear of another state that was withdrawing human rights from its citizens, we would be up in arms.

Why should our reaction be any different when it is our own rights at stake?


Robin’s recent book Exercising Human Rights: Gender, Agency and Practice was published by Routledge this year.


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