UN Human Rights Committee Holds UK to Account

2nd July, Geneva

photo UN July 2015The UN Human Rights Committee has concluded a Hearing, over two days, with the UK Government on the delivery of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in the UK. Committee members posed tough questions ranging from the plan to abolish the Human Rights Act, the territorial application of the ICCPR to the 10 permanently inhabited overseas territories, tacking online abuse, the use of stop and search powers in Scotland, access to justice, prisoner voting rights, measures to outlaw hitting children as a punishment and effective strategies to tackle inequalities.

The UK Government did not have time to answer all of the Committee’s questions and now has 48 hours to provide written responses, a solution that suited all sides.  The Committee’s report on the UK, Concluding Observations, will be published about 23rd July 2015.  Those present at the Hearing included the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the GB Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Civil society in Scotland was represented by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland due to funding from Unite the UNION, the National Union of Journalists, CRER, the United Nations Association Scotland and Glasgow Disability Alliance.  The HRCS attended the pre-session meeting with the Committee and was given speaking rights of 3 minutes to summarise some of the issues raised in our report.  We were also invited to participate in an informal meeting with the Committee which proved to be very helpful in understanding the range of issues which the Committee identified as requiring further examination.

The UN process allow organisations in Scotland to match international standards with domestic practice and to raise with the UN any shortfalls.  The next opportunity will be the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in October, so more information to follow.  The HRCS has already been in discussions over submissions  with our colleagues in England and Northern Ireland.  We look forward to working with members on this project to build knowledge and capacity, if funds allow.