Students Staff

22 May 2015

Essex experts speak out in defence of human rights

World-leading human rights researchers from the University of Essex have joined the growing public debate surrounding Conservative plans to repeal the 1998 Human Rights Act.

  • Professors Geoff Gilbert and Jane Wright have outlined why they think scrapping the Human Rights Act "threatens to undermine our centuries-old commitment to human rights and our international reputation and standing" in The Conversation.

Speaking in a video this week, they explained that the proposal to replace the Act with a British Bill of Rights could be “a serious mistake and really undermine our credibility.”

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Professors Geoff Gilbert, Sir Nigel Rodley and Jane Wright from Essex’s ground-breaking Human Rights Centre outlined the implications at a domestic, European and international level.

It follows increasing outcry from leading legal and human rights campaigners and figures, including Essex’s Chancellor, Shami Chakrabarti who warned in The Independent last week that “it undermines the universality of human rights, which earlier generations paid for with their lives, and allows any government to pick when they apply, and to whom.”

Professor Jane Wright, who has provided consultancy services to the Minority Rights Group, the European Commission, the Probation Service, and the Council of Europe, explained that the act, introduced by the Labour Government under Tony Blair, was a “momentous event in the United Kingdom.”

“Not everyone likes human rights,” she explained, “but the point about human rights is they don’t discriminate. Everyone enjoys them because they are human.”

Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (1993-2001) and former Chair of the UN Human Rights Committee, was knighted for services to human rights and international law and in 2000.

Outlining the international implications, he explained that if “the Government would like to be free to send foreigners back to countries where they face ill treatment and torture…it would be a serious mistake and really undermine our credibility.”

Professor Geoff Gilbert has carried out human rights training on behalf of the Council of Europe and UN Refugee Agency and has advised governments on their laws in central and eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Essex’s Human Rights Centre is one of the oldest academic human rights centres in the world with a global reputation as a leader in research, practice and education. Founded in 1982, it has 80 members who, over the last three decades have consistently produced pioneering academic and policy research on issues that are a priority and of direct relevance to victims of human rights violations, governments, NGOs and international organisations.

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