On 22 June the government introduced its Bill of Rights “… repealing and replacing the Human Rights Act 1998”. If this measure passes in Parliament, it will be the first bill of rights that actually reduces our human rights, earning it the nickname ‘Rights Removal Bill’.
As the Conservative Party looks to elect a new leader, we urge candidates to read what its former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, said about the Human Rights Act in the Jewish Chronicle in 2016 – that the Act is a legacy of the Holocaust and history shows why we need it.
We pressed that argument when we met MPs at Westminster yesterday and will reiterate it to Parliamentarians scrutinising the Bill in the weeks ahead. If you are in any doubt about how the Human Rights Act help ordinary people in their everyday lives read our briefing or watch our short film, Sunrise not Sunset, which tells the story of how the Act kept an elderly couple together after their local authority put them in separate care homes.
Provisions like the Human Rights Act protect us all, but they are particularly important for vulnerable minorities. We are extremely concerned by proposals to forcibly remove asylum-seekers to Rwanda. The last-minute intervention of the European Court of Human Rights underlines the crucial importance of human rights and may explain the government’s timing in introducing its Bill of Rights – which will limit the power of the court – a few days later.
As we say in our statement, sending vulnerable people to Rwanda is “… inhumane, dangerous, and ineffective”, and we urge supporters to get involved both on the specific issue of Rwanda and the ‘hostile environment’ more broadly.
These are messages we repeated for last month’s Refugee Week, during which we also ran events on:
Hassockfield is a new centre built to detain women seeking asylum, and so featured in our actions to mark International Women’s Day. Our briefing on Hassockfield featured the harrowing testimony of Elizabeth – a woman trafficked to the UK who, rather than being helped by the authorities, ended up being appallingly treated in detention.
Vulnerable women like Elizabeth – in fact, all migrant women – are in danger of being further disadvantaged if the government fails to fully ratify the Instanbul Convention on Violence Against Women. Ministers plan to exclude migrant women from the Convention’s protection. René Cassin urges the government to ratify without reservation, protect all women, so that “no woman is left behind”.
Women’s rights formed the basis of the first three sessions in our Judith Social Justice Series of events (Disabled Women’s Experiences of Hate Crime; When the Police Fail to Protect Women; Women in Immigration Detention). This is a series of events hosted by René Cassin, delivered by specialist organisations working to support, protect and advocate for marginalised groups. This series is part of our work kindly supported by The Judith Trust.
The next session – Disability Rights, with Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK – will explore disability rights and their accompanying policy landscape in the UK. This is an online session on Monday 5 September at 3pm, chaired by Dr Annette Lawson – book your free place via our Eventbrite page.
With the deepening cost of living crisis, food poverty has become a far from marginal issue. On 28 May we marked World Hunger Day by launching our Jewish Food Rights Declaration, concluding “Judaism values dignity – enshrining the Right to Food promotes dignity and liberty for all … our message is clear: enforceable food rights are needed so that Government is accountable for ensuring that nobody goes hungry”.
Dignity and respect are the core values that human rights aim to uphold. And there can be no greater affront to those values than the blanket persecution of people because of who they are and what they believe. We are committed to keeping China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslims in the spotlight and during London Fashion Week in June, we joined a wide coalition to highlight the fact that the Chinese cotton industry uses Uyghur forced labour on a truly massive scale – globally, one in five cotton garments is most likely tainted by slavery. We are asking corporations to urgently audit their supply chains; and governments to ban imports produced by slave labour.
Since meeting Uyghur exile Rahima Mahmut in 2019, René Cassin has been successful in mobilising the Jewish community on this issue. Last year, we were instrumental in negotiating a generous start-up grant from Pears Foundation for Rahima’s organisation Stop Uyghur Genocide. Since then, as an advisor to the organisation, I have helped Rahima develop a powerful and effective campaign – work that has been rewarded in recent weeks by further support from Pears that will underpin the organisation’s work for the next three years.
Our work on making a difference in the present, of course, is founded on our remembrance of the past. Earlier this week we marked the anniversary of the genocide of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.
None of the work outlined above would be possible without the help of our supporters. Please make a donation today to ensure a Jewish voice for human rights is heard loud and clear.