Stars of stage and screen have joined Liberty and its members in calling on the Government to scrap plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.
In a series of short films, actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Indira Varma, David Harewood, Simon Callow and Vanessa Redgrave have lent their voices to the stories of ordinary people who have held the powerful to account using human rights laws.
Cases include those of:
• Sharon Hardy and Khristina Swain, whose sister Anne-Marie Ellement was viciously bullied after reporting being raped by two military police colleagues. In October 2011, she took her own life. A brief inquest failed to thoroughly examine the issues around her death. Using the HRA, Liberty secured a fresh inquest and new rape investigation. The Coroner also made a number of recommendations – accepted by the Ministry of Defence – that will have the effect of improving support to victims of rape and sexual assault in the military.
• Patience Asuquo, who was brought to the UK as a domestic worker and abused mentally and physically for years. She was never paid, and her “employer” withheld her passport. When she managed to escape, police refused to take Patience’s allegations seriously and returned her to her employer. Liberty used the HRA to force officers to investigate and Patience’s employer was prosecuted.
• Jenny Paton, after an anonymous tip-off, Poole council spied on and tailed Jenny, her partner and her children to check whether they lived in a particular school catchment area. Using the HRA, Jenny and Liberty were able to hold the authority to account.
The Human Rights Act enshrines fundamental freedoms into UK law and allows the British public to challenge abuse, neglect or mistreatment. Its introduction in 1998 triggered fundamental positive changes in legislation and public policy UK-wide, ensuring all of our authorities treat people with fairness, dignity and respect.
The Government intends to replace the Act with a “British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities”, which would diminish rights protections for everyone in the UK and limit the use of the law to cases politicians consider “most serious”, ending the universality of human rights.
Benedict Cumberbatch said: “Our Human Rights Act belongs to all of us. It’s not for politicians to pick and choose when they apply or who deserves protection. Repealing it will mean less protection against state abuse or neglect, and weaken the rights of every single one of us – and the vulnerable most of all.”
Indira Varma said: “Our Human Rights Act protects every one of us – young or old, wealthy and poor, civilian or soldier. It is a cause for pride and celebration, not a pawn in a dangerous political game. It is ours and no one is taking it from us without a fight.”
Simon Callow said: “The Human Rights Act is one of the few laws that enables us to hold the powerful to account. No surprise then that the Government wants to scrap it. The Act is a triumph of British values; we abandon it at our peril.”
Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti, who also features in the films launched today, said: “These films tell just a few of the stories of our Human Rights Act giving a voice to some of the most vulnerable people in our country. Soldiers, journalists, victims of rape, domestic violence and slavery all found justice thanks to Churchill’s Legacy. Government plans to scrap the Act play populist games with hard-won freedoms and undermine the United Kingdom at home and abroad.”
To watch the videos, click here.