By Debora Singer MBE, René Cassin
When Sarah* had to move to a care home, she and her husband Benjamin* were shocked when they were told that he was not eligible to join him. Jewish Care social workers advocated that this would infringe Sarah and Benjamin’s right to family life. After a subsequent assessment, Benjamin was allowed to move into the home with his wife.
When Nathan* needed care after a hospital stay, he was transferred to a secular care home, despite having lived an Orthodox Jewish life. Jewish Care argued it was a breach of his freedom of religion not to be allocated a place in a Jewish residential home.
The rights that Sarah, Benjamin and Nathan relied on are two of the most fundamental values reflected in the Human Rights Act – the right to dignity and respect. These are values that should be enjoyed by ordinary people in their everyday lives. The Human Rights Act is designed to ensure that. As Jews, we rely on it for freedom of religion and for other fundamental rights.
Yet the Human Rights Act is under threat. In June 2022 Dominic Raab, as Minister of Justice, introduced the Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. The Bill of Rights, or ‘Rights Removal Bill’ as we call it, will significantly weaken the Human Rights Act and therefore the human rights protections it provides. The assured outcomes of the two cases mentioned would be unlikely under a new Bill of Rights. This is because the ‘positive duty’ to protect people that the Human Rights Act places on public bodies such as local authorities and the police can, under the new Bill of Rights, be overturned by resources or policy arguments.
All Jews have a stake in the human rights framework. The first expression of human rights emerged as a response to the Holocaust, when French Jewish jurist Monsieur René Cassin co-drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). British lawyers used the Declaration as a foundation in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights and, in 1998, the Human Rights Act incorporated the Convention into UK law.
The Rights Removal Bill creates a hierarchy that separates the ‘deserving’ from the ‘undeserving’. Minorities such as asylum seekers or foreign national prisoners will have their rights reduced. As a minority ourselves, the Jewish community stands up for other minorities. A reduction in their rights is a loss for us all. As Jews we know all too well where marginalising minorities leads.
René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights, has sent a briefing to Conservative MPs who are Jewish or have Jewish constituencies to ask them to vote against the Bill of Rights at its second reading in the House of Commons. We are asking readers to expand our campaign by sharing the briefing with their own MP.
Together we can get our message across:
Hands off our Human Rights Act!
*We have changed the names to protect the privacy of the people involved in these cases.