Call to ‘defend democracy and human rights’

'Under the new legislation, public bodies will only have to fulfil rights if it fits in with their resources and priorities.'

There is a pressing need to defend our human rights this year, Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) has said, as more anti-democratic measures are in the pipeline. Writing on the Quakers in Britain website, Grace Da Costa says that significant legislation brought to parliament this year includes the Bill of Rights and the Public Order Bill (currently going through the House of Lords).

The Bill of Rights is ‘perhaps the biggest threat right now’, she says. Under the new legislation, public bodies will only have to fulfil rights if it fits in with their resources and priorities. The bill would also make it harder to bring a case to a UK court, meaning more cases have to go to Strasbourg – which is more costly and takes much longer.

Meanwhile the Public Order Bill includes ‘draconian’ trespass and protest measures previously rejected by the Lords for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (or ‘Policing Bill’). The government also wants to bring in other measures, such as restricting the right to strike, and curtailing public bodies’ ability to take part in boycotts, divestments and sanctions.

All of this ‘makes it harder to bring about positive change in areas such as peace and climate justice’, writes Grace Da Costa.

The measures continue the controversial approach to human rights seen last year in the: Policing Bill; Nationality and Borders Act; Elections Act; and Judicial Review and Courts Act.

Outlining how the proposals disproportionately affect marginalised people, BYM calls for Friends to be ‘in solidarity with the people and communities who are targeted and affected by these bills… We should keep trying traditional methods… such as writing to your MP, signing petitions, and protesting. But we might have to try new things too, such as quiet diplomacy and digital campaigning’.

There is more information on campaigning against the Bill of Rights on the websites of Amnesty, the British Institute of Human Rights and Liberty, where there is also a petition against the Public Order Bill.

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