“Ensure Rwanda Bill respects rule of law” – Jewish human rights charity urges Lord Chancellor

14 Mar, 2024 | Asylum and Detention, News, Press releases and statements, Protecting Human Rights in the UK, Uncategorized

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PRESS RELEASE – 14 March 2024

René Cassin – the Jewish voice for human rights – has asked the Lord Chancellor to ensure that the Safety of Rwanda Bill is compliant with UK and international law. The plea comes as MPs are poised to consider a range of amendments made to the legislation as it was debated in the House of Lords last week.

Peers across the political spectrum voiced deep concerns about the Bill and approved ten amendments to mitigate its effects. Conservative Lord Tugendhat said: “ … in this Bill the Government are seeking to achieve by Act of Parliament what in Nineteen Eighty-Four the ruling party and its apparatchiks sought to achieve by torture”, whilst his colleague Viscount Hailsham warned “ … we will be doing something that is in principle profoundly wrong in support of a policy that is going nowhere”.

René Cassin’s Executive Director, Mia Hasenson-Gross says:

“Lord Chancellors swear an oath to respect the rule of law. Speaking last May, the current Lord Chancellor went further – calling the rule of law one of the ‘essential building blocks of a safe, fair and prosperous society’.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill takes a sledgehammer to the rule of law. One Conservative peer called it ‘profoundly wrong’. Another likened the Government to the ruling party in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

At a time when social divisions are strained and minorities feel insecure and threatened, the rule of law provides stable and reassuring ballast. It is a vital part of a set of common values around which we can all unite. Seeing the Government ripping up its own rulebook is profoundly worrying, for everyone, but particularly for minorities.

We urge the Lord Chancellor to ensure that MPs take account of these concerns when they debate the Bill on Monday.”

Text of letter from René Cassin’s Mia Hasenson-Gross to the Lord Chancellor:, Alex Chalk KC MP:

14 March 2024

The Rt Hon Alex Chalk KC MP
Lord Chancellor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Dear Lord Chancellor

The Safety of Rwanda Bill and the rule of law

On 24 May 2023 you took the Lord Chancellor’s Oath to “respect the rule of law”. Speaking afterwards at the Royal Courts of Justice you underlined that pledge by saying “… the rule of law, access to justice, independence of the judiciary … aren’t quaint, airy notions to pay lip-service to – but the essential building blocks of a safe, fair and prosperous society”.

We share your assessment and welcome your commitment. The rule of law benefits everyone, but minorities have a particular interest in constitutional and legal norms that uphold their rights and protect them from what Lord Hailsham famously termed an ‘elective dictatorship’. In addition, as a Jewish human rights organisation, we are acutely aware that today’s international humanitarian law framework developed as a response to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Concerns that the Safety of Rwanda Bill breaches rule of law principles are widespread. Last week, two of your Conservative colleagues in the House of Lords damned the legislation in the starkest of terms. On Tuesday 4 March, Lord Tugendhat said: “ … in this Bill the Government are seeking to achieve by Act of Parliament what in Nineteen Eighty-Four the ruling party and its apparatchiks sought to achieve by torture”. Two days later, Viscount Hailsham warned “ … we will be doing something that is in principle profoundly wrong in support of a policy that is going nowhere”.

If, as you have said, the rule of law is essential to ‘a safe, fair and prosperous society’, and the Safety of Rwanda Bill breaches rule of law principles to the extent that such eminent peers claim, it is difficult to understand how a reasonable and responsible government could allow the Bill to proceed without the additional safeguards the Lords have overwhelmingly recommended.

The Bill returns to the House of Commons on Monday. We urge you to ensure that the final legislation is compliant with domestic and international law, either by adopting Lords amendments to that effect or by some other method. Failure to do so would surely show contempt, rather than respect, for the rule of law.

Yours faithfully

Mia Hasenson-Gross
Executive Director

René Cassin – ‘the Jewish voice for human rights’
www.renecassin.org 

[ends]

For further information or comment, contact:

Mia Hasenson-Gross – mia.hasenson-gross@renecassin.org

Notes for editors:

  1. The Safety of Rwanda Bill (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3540) was debated at Report Stage (4 and 6 March) and passed 3rd Reading (12 March) in the House of Lords. The Bill returns to the House of Commons on the afternoon of Monday 18 March, when MPs will consider Lords amendments. The Bill is expected to enter Parliamentary ‘ping-pong’ on Wednesday 20 March.

  2. Lord Chancellor’s Oath (https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cdp-2020-0107/)“I, [NAME], do swear that in the office of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain I will respect the rule of law, defend the independence of the judiciary and discharge my duty to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which I am responsible. So help me God.”

  3. Alex Chalk KC MP speech after swearing-in at Lord Chancellor, 24 May 2023 (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/lord-chancellor-swearing-in-speech-rt-hon-alex-chalk-mp)

  4. Quotes from Conservative Lords:
    1. Lord Tugendhat – https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2024-03-04/debates/525F3E62-A481-4C81-BB49-69BE8525B763/SafetyOfRwanda(AsylumAndImmigration)Bill (column 1336)
    1. Viscount Hailsham – https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2024-03-06/debates/4475C1E4-2C43-44B0-B087-0DDA3ADD222F/SafetyOfRwanda(AsylumAndImmigration)Bill (column 1565)

For detailed critique of Safety of Rwanda Bill, see The Lord’s Constitution Committee report Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill report (9 February 2024) –https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld5804/ldselect/ldconst/63/6303.htm, especially paras 11, 13, 22, 24, 29, 31, 37, 44, 50, 57, 63, 67

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