PLANS TO REFORM the Human Rights Act will create two classes of humans – one with protected rights and another whose rights could be violated, Quakers in Britain have told the UK government.

The UK government launched a consultation on proposals to reform the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights late last year. The proposals follow the Independent Human Rights Act Review (IHRAR) which the government established in December 2020. However, many commentators have noted that the proposals fail to take into account the IHRAR findings.

In their response, Quakers in Britain say the changes would remove the universality of human rights, introducing inequalities in access to justice. Introducing a reward-based approach to human rights would create two classes of human – those entitled to protection of their rights and those who can have their rights violated because they are seen to have committed wrongdoing. Quakers argue this proposal, alongside others, will result in unequal access to justice and undermine migrant rights.

The Quaker statement on migration sets out the Quaker commitment to working for a world where dignity and rights are upheld regardless of migration status. This applies to people of all nationalities by right, not only to people seen as ‘deserving’.

Quakers also have a long history of working on criminal justice. Their approach focuses on non-punitive responses to crime as both keeping the community safe and providing support to the people who have harmed others.

In their response to the government, Quakers in Britain state: “…there are many reasons people are led to crime, not least because of systemic factors we are all complicit in, such as structural racism, the Hostile Environment and unequal rights to employment and basic living conditions in the UK. The consultation fails to address the role of these factors.”

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain, said: “The proposed reforms to the Human Rights Act sit alongside several Bills currently going through Parliament that are eroding the framework of human rights in the UK.  As Quakers we have a long history of speaking truth to power. For us this is a matter of faith. We resist the corrosive politics of division and are reminded to love our neighbours as ourselves, to meet one another on kinder ground and to recognise and acknowledge that of God in each other.”

* Read the Quaker statement on migration here.

* Quakers in Britain have also signed a joint response to the consultation coordinated by Equally Ours on behalf of a number of civil society organisations. Read that statement here.

* Source: Quakers in Britain