Commission welcomes Council of Europe findings that UK legal reforms could “weaken human rights protections”

The Commission welcomes comments from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, warning the UK Government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a new “Bill of Rights” could weaken human rights protections. 

Following a five-day trip to the UK, Commissioner Mijatović said, “It is worrying that the proposed legal reforms might weaken human rights protections at this pivotal moment for the UK, and it sends the wrong signal beyond the country’s borders at a time when human rights are under pressure throughout Europe.”

The Commission was pleased to meet with Commissioner Mijatović in June. We discussed a range of human rights issues in Scotland and expressed the Commission’s strong opposition to UK Government plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a new “Bill of Rights”.

Ian Duddy, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, says,

“The Commission is clear in its view the HRA works well as it stands. We have repeatedly highlighted our view that the new “Bill of Rights” undermines 20 years of  human rights law and policy development across the UK, watering down protections and making it more difficult for people to get access to justice.

“We agree with Commissioner Mijatović’s concerns that the new Bill will alter the interpretation of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) rights by UK courts, widening the gap between the protection of those rights by our courts and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. This will surely lead to confusion, uncertainty and more damage to the protections currently offered to all by human rights law in the UK”.

In her statement, Commissioner Mijatović also noted concerns around the impact of repealing the HRA on the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.

Additionally, she has examined  wider issues affecting the state of human rights in the UK, including the high number of children living in, or at risk of, poverty, describing this as a “serious human rights problem”.

Finally, the Commissioner raised strong concerns about the impact of an “increasingly hostile public discourse” on young and adult trans and LGBTI people in the UK and the risks this poses for women’s rights, calling for those in power to speak out clearly against negative narratives in the debate.

The Commission will continue to engage with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights ahead of the publication of her full report later this year.


Notes for Editors

  1. The Council of Europe is Europe’s leading human rights organisation. All 46 member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The European Court of Human Rights oversees the implementation of the Convention in member states. The ECHR is incorporated into law in Scotland through both the Human Rights Act and the Scotland Act.
  2. You can read the full statement from Commissioner Mijatović on the Council of Europe website.
  3. Find out more about the Commission’s defence of the Human Rights Act on our website page.
  4. Read our written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill on the Publications page of our website.