The UK is setting a "dangerous precedent" to the world by undermining human rights on a number of fronts, according to the annual report of Amnesty International on the state of the world’s human rights, published today.
While Amnesty warned of a global pattern whereby the institutions set up to help protect rights are being undermined by governments attempting to evade oversight of their domestic records, the UK was singled out for particular criticism given its plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.
The UK Government has promised to replace the Act with a British Bill of Rights, but its timetable has slipped on a number of occasions amid signs that it is proving more difficult than expected to devise a replacement.
Amnesty pointed out that other countries including Russia and Kenya have already pointed to the UK's intentions as justification for curtailing the impact of human rights in their own countries.
Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen commented: "The UK is setting a dangerous precedent to the world on human rights.
“There’s no doubt that the downgrading of human rights by this Government is a gift to dictators the world over and fatally undermines our ability to call on other countries to uphold rights and laws.
“People around the world are still fighting to get basic human rights and we should not let politicians take our hard-won rights away with the stroke of a pen.”
The report also criticises the UK for refusing to participate in EU efforts to share responsibility for the increasing number of refugees arriving in Europe. Even with the significantly expanded Syrian resettlement scheme announced by the Prime Minister in September, the UK is receiving far fewer refugees than others in Europe. Amnesty is calling for an expansion in the rules which allow refugees to join family members in the UK, as one action the UK could take at a time when globally the number of people forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution has so greatly increased.
Concerns are also expressed over the Government’s proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, includng the lack of adequate judicial oversight, uncontrolled data sharing with international governments, the necessity and practicalities of mass surveillance (so-called "bulk collection"), and serious questions over the legality of the programme. Amnesty has called for a substantial redrafting of the proposed bill.
And the report speaks out against the continued licensing of billions of pounds' worth of arms exports to Saudi Arabia in view of the Saudis' intervention in the conflict, in which thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed, a call has been echoed by the parliamentary International Development Committee.
In its global overview, Amnesty accuses the UN of failing to fulfil its role in upholding rights and international law and ensuring accountability, in particular in relation to the Syrian conflict.