Amnesty hits out at Tory plans to replace Human Rights Act with bill of rights

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<span>Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Amnesty International has criticised plans by the justice secretary Dominic Raab to replace Labour’s Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights.

Raab has argued that the proposal will better protect the press in exposing wrongdoing and said he feared free speech was being “whittled away” by “wokery and political correctness”.

The deputy prime minister told the Daily Mail that under plans being drawn up, there would be only limited restrictions placed on the protections on free speech with checks to stop people abusing it to promote terrorism.

Laura Trevelyan, Amnesty’s human rights in the UK campaign manager, hit out at his plan on Saturday.

“Scrapping the Human Rights Act has long been the intention of Mr Raab and others not because they want to extend any protections, but because they want to slash away at the powers ordinary people have got to challenge the government and its decisions,” she said.

“I hope people don’t fall for this latest attempt to mislead; just this week the Human Rights Act protected free speech when a journalist used it to defend the confidentiality of his sources.

“When you think about the Human Rights Act, think of Hillsborough, or the successful challenge to police banning women from holding a vigil for Sarah Everard, or how the government will be forced to hold a proper inquiry into its handling of the Covid pandemic.

“The Human Rights Act is the most important weapon ordinary people have against the state and wrongful treatment, and we should all be very suspicious of the very people it holds to account telling us they are doing us a favour by watering it down.”

The proposals, currently out for consultation, are expected to be included in the Queen’s speech later this year.

Raab told Saturday’s Daily Mail: “We will still be clamping down on those who try and use either media or free speech to incite violence, to radicalise terrorists, or to threaten children. All of those safeguards will be in place.

“But we’ve got to be able to strengthen free speech, the liberty that guards all of our other freedoms, and stop it being whittled away surreptitiously, sometimes without us really being conscious of it.

“So it will have a different status in the pecking order of rights and I think that will go a long way to protecting this country’s freedom of speech and our history, which has always very strongly protected freedom of speech.”

In December, the government announced a consultation to revise the Human Rights Act.

The Human Rights Act was introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 1998 to enable UK nationals to rely on rights contained in the European convention on human rights before the domestic courts.

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