Network Rail pulls Amnesty human rights advert for being 'too political'

Public awareness campaign highlights importance of Human Rights Act in Hillsborough inquest and Northern Ireland peace process

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The Independent Online

Network Rail has pulled an Amnesty International advert about the importance of the Human Rights Act after deeming it "too political", the rights group has said.

The public awareness campaign highlighted the importance of the Human Rights Act in the Hillsborough inquest and the Northern Ireland peace process.

The advert also highlighted the stories of several other individuals who relied on the act and encouraged people to sign a petition to "save the act".

Rail stations in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, and London’s Waterloo and Victoria stations, were set to carry the adverts.

Earlier this year the Government pledged to replace the policy with a British Bill of Rights.

Network rail said the advert was against their rules for advertising in stations because it directed people to sign an online petition.

Responding to Network Rail’s decision, Kate Allen, Amnesty’s UK Director, said: “We’re very disappointed by Network Rail’s decision to pull these adverts at the eleventh hour. We simply don’t accept that basic human rights are ever a political issue.

“The irony is that human rights cross party-political lines and so do failures, cover-ups and abuses."

She added: "Successive governments managed to let down the Hillsborough families, and their story demonstrates precisely why we need enduring human rights protections which aren’t redrafted by the government of the day, on a political whim.

“It’s vital to safeguard basic rights in these politically volatile times as constant protections relied on by ordinary people.”

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A spokesperson for Network Rail said: "The advert, which we first saw yesterday, directs people to sign an online petition. For this reason we deemed it ‘political’ and against our rules for advertising in stations. 

"We aim to be fair and even-handed when deciding which adverts to accept in our stations and have a set of rules in place to ensure all advertising is treated equally."

Amnesty published a YouGov poll as part of their campaign suggesting 70 per cent of people in the UK were unaware of the role the Human Rights Act played in the Hillsborough inquest, which delivered an "unlawful killing" ruling over the deaths of 96 football fans earlier this year. 

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son Christopher died at Hillsborough, said: “It’s a very small-minded decision for Network Rail to take. Human rights aren’t political; they cover everyone right across society.

"I don’t think many people know about the Human Rights Act and how important Article 2, which protects the right to life, is. But we do, and the Human Rights Act is one of the most important things in our society.”

Amnesty's campaign also raises awareness of the role the act played in the Good Friday peace agreement which ended "the troubles" in Northern Ireland

YouGov found 74 per cent of people were unaware the act was part of the peace agreement. 

Professor Monica McWilliams, a signatory of the Good Friday agreement, warned the repeal of the Human Rights Act could threaten peace in Northern Ireland.

“We would never have contemplated that the Human Rights Act would be in jeopardy at any stage," she said. 

"It was a building block of our agreement. To take this away from Northern Ireland is just absolutely shocking.”