The UN has released a damning report into the conduct of successive Conservative-led governments. It is overarching, criticising the lack of action in hundreds of areas. These include the Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) Inquiry; hate crime provoked by the British media; child refugees; and child poverty. But there’s a shocking catch: the Tories are not legally obliged to act. On any of it.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has carried out its periodic review of the UK’s commitment to international human rights law. It asked hundreds of campaign groups, charities and organisations to submit evidence [pdf p13]. And the complaints made by these bodies are damning. You can read The Canary’s full analysis of the evidence submitted to the UN here.
Now, the UNHRC has made 227 recommendations. At the time of publication, these were only accessible via the UN extranet, for which registration is required. You can then view the report here. And there were overarching criticisms of the government, including:
- That it must do more regarding “high level” child sexual abuse, and the CSA Inquiry must be completed.
- That counter-terrorism legislation needs to be altered, as it currently “target[s] individuals or groups based on race, ethnic background or religion”.
- That it must do more in respect of selling arms to “countries where they are likely to be used for human rights abuses and violations”.
- The fact that abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland.
- Levels of child poverty (currently four million children), which it must “eradicate”.
- That is should “consider the revision of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 with a view to protecting the right to privacy, including by prohibiting mass surveillance activities and the collection of communications data without warrants”.
- That not enough was being done to reduce the UK prisoner population; to improve prisoner safety; or to address increases in prison murders, self-harm and suicide.
Flouting international law?
Recommendations included that the government must put part or all of nearly a dozen pieces of international legislation into law in the UK, including the protection of:
- The rights of the child.
- Migrant workers.
- People from forced disappearance.
- Decent work for domestic workers.
- Children against sexual exploitation and abuse (EU legislation).
- Women and girls against violence (EU legislation).
To most, it may be concerning that the UK is not even signed up to some of these laws in the first place.
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But there were also dozens of specific recommendations, which go to the heart of the Tories’ governance of the UK. These include that:
- The government must include “civil society” (the public) more in decision-making processes; specifically the implementation of the UNHRC recommendations.
- It needs to do more to ensure that British companies are not breaching human rights abroad.
- A Universal Basic Income must be considered.
- Life sentences given out to young offenders should be abolished.
- It needs to review the Immigration Act 2016, as it may be in breach of international law surrounding children; specifically the detention of child immigrants/refugees.
There were also a staggering 42 recommendations about the government’s approach to hate crime. Specifics included that:
- The government must do more to stop the British media from inciting hate crime.
- Not enough is being done to counter ethnic profiling of people of African descent.
- The government still needs to do more to stop the increase of all hate crime and discrimination.
- Discrimination against same-sex couples in Northern Ireland must end, and same-sex marriage must be made law.
The Tories’ British Bill of Rights
There were 14 overarching concerns about the Tories’ proposed British Bill of Rights (BBR), which will replace the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Specifically that:
- The BBR would maintain the same level of protection for the public as the ECHR.
- European citizens living in the UK would be protected under the BBR.
- The public should be consulted on the contents of the BBR.
So far, the UK government has either [pdf] denied or said, in essence, that work was in progress on all these criticisms. It has until September to report back to the UN.
Another day, another UN report
But we’ve been here before. As The Canary has documented, the UN twice reported on the UK government in 2016. And it found that the Tories had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights; while also eroding the rights of single parents, minority communities, and the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.
The Tories’ response to both those reports? To simply shrug their shoulders and say they didn’t believe them. And because of the way the UN works, the Tories can do this; the UN has no legal power to force the government to act. So once again, it is down to campaigners, opposition politicians, and the media to try and force the hand of the Conservatives. Sadly, only one of these three groups of people is likely to do anything meaningful. And it’s not the media or politicians.
Governing for whom?
May said in her first speech as PM that she would “govern not in the interests of the privileged few”. But she and her party have never showed any interest in doing so. They stand up for the wealthy while allowing the rest of us to rot. So voters would do well to remember her words on the steps of Downing Street, think about them in the context of this UN report, and then vote accordingly on 8 June.
– Register to vote in the 8 June general election. People can call 0300 200 3500 if they don’t already have a national insurance number.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
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