Related video: The charity cited concerns around the new policing bill, which has sparked protests across the country

UK rushing to ‘abandon human rights’, Amnesty report warns

‘We’re speeding toward cliff edge,’ says NGO director

Rory Sullivan
Wednesday 07 April 2021 12:03

The UK has long been “moving in the wrong direction on human rights” but matters are now “speeding towards a cliff edge”, Amnesty International has warned.

In the organisation’s 408-page annual human rights report, the UK received strong criticism for its perceived mishandling of the pandemic.

Amnesty International took aim at the country’s “extremely high” death toll and the fact that care home residents’ rights to health and life were violated by inadequate PPE and coronavirus testing.

The government was also condemned for its ongoing refusal to launch an immediate coronavirus inquiry, with ministers giving no clear indication of a potential start date.

The UK section of the report highlighted other human rights concerns, including worries about the country’s immigration and housing systems, police discrimination and the government’s clampdown on the right to protest.

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The charity cited “serious concern” about the government’s review of the Human Rights Act and its new police bill which will give officers greater powers to stop protests. Taken together, these could “severely curtail the right to peaceably challenge or protest in the UK”, according to Amnesty. 

The report also mentioned the government’s decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia in July, a reversal which it branded “irresponsible”.

Summarising the report’s findings, Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Having made mistake after lethal mistake during the pandemic, the government is now shamefully trying to strip away our right to lawfully challenge its decisions no matter how poor they are.

“For years, the UK has been moving in the wrong direction on human rights – but things are now getting worse at an accelerating rate.

“On the right to protest, on the Human Rights Act, on accountability for coronavirus deaths, on asylum, on arms sales or on trade with despots, we’re speeding toward the cliff edge.

“We need to stop this headlong rush into abandoning our human rights.”

In response to the criticism, a government spokesperson toldThe Independent that ministers had “prioritised protecting the most vulnerable in our society” - including those in care homes - during the pandemic. They also suggested that the right to peaceful protest will always be maintained.

Ms Allen’s comments came as Agnès Callamard, the NGO’s new secretary general, said the world was not doing enough to protect the vulnerable. 

Ms Callamard called for a “reset and reboot” to the UN and the International Criminal Court’s means of holding states accountable for their crimes, with justice often stalled by vetoes at the UN Security Council.

“Sadly, 2020 shows that they have been wrestled into political deadlock by leaders seeking to exploit and undermine collective responses to human rights violations,” Ms Callamard said.

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