Today’s big question

Why is the UK accused of ‘abandoning’ human rights?

Amnesty report slams Boris Johnson’s government over ‘failings’ including Covid response and protests crackdown

The UK is “speeding towards a cliff edge” on human rights, Amnesty International has warned. 

In what The Guardian describes as a “stark rebuke” to Boris Johnson’s government, organisation’s newly published annual report on human rights across the world includes a series of criticisms of the UK over issues including the authorities’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report also highlights concerns about the country’s immigration and housing systems; police discrimination; the government’s crackdown on the right to protest; and the resumed arms trade with Saudi Arabia.

Summarising the findings, Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen 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.”

Allen warned that the UK needs to stop its “headlong rush into abandoning our human rights”.

“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,” she said.

The Amnesty report notes that UK’s Covid death rate was one of the highest in Europe last year, with at least 74,570 lives lost to the virus, including many in care homes. The UK authorities “violated the right to health and right to life” of older people by “failing to provide adequate PPE and regular testing, discharging infected or possibly infected patients from hospitals to care homes and suspending regular oversight procedures”, says the report.

 It also notes the disproportionately high death rate among black and minority ethnic healthcare workers. And the Metropolitan Police response to the Black Lives Matter protests in London is criticised too, with officers accused of using “excessive force”. 

Other issues of “serious concern” include the government’s new police, crime and sentencing bill, which will give officers greater powers to stop peaceful protests. The bill and other reviews such as that into the Human Rights Act “are being sped through during the pandemic”, said Allen. 

“Taken together, the legislative moves could severely curtail the right to peaceably challenge or protest in the UK,”  Amnesty reports in a summary of the newly published report.

Responding to the long list of criticisms, a government spokesperson said that ministers had “prioritised protecting the most vulnerable in our society” during the pandemic, including those in care homes.

The spokesperson “also suggested that the right to peaceful protest will always be maintained”, reports The Independent

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