Shami Chakrabarti Warns Against Pulling Out of Human Rights Act

The whole international system of human rights could fall "like a pack of cards" if the UK pulls out of it, leading campaigner Shami Chakrabarti has warned.    The director of Liberty, the human rights charity, told a packed audience at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, that younger generations "would never forgive us" if people did not fight to stop plans by the current Conservative Government scrapping the Human Rights Act and possibly pulling out the Europeans Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Chakrabarti recently published On Liberty, in which she examines her own journey from government lawyer at the Home Office to legal adviser of the campaigning organisation, before taking up the directorship the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and considers the current state of civil liberties in the light of the conditions they created.

Focusing on the threat to Human Rights Act and possible withdrawal from the ECHR, Chakrabarti said there were people in Russia warning of the repercussions in their own country if the Government followed through with their plans.  “The whole post-World War II system of international human rights protection could fall like a house of cards if we don't make a fight,” she said.  “More optimistically, in Scottish politics, people are committed to defending the Human Rights Act, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, but it's a tough old fight.”

She said that the mooted plans by the UK Government to replace the Human Rights Act with a "British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" meant that politicians would decide "who was worthy and was unworthy of rights".   But Chakrabarti said that she was optimistic about the future as she believed there was an idealism returning to younger generations, who would hold politicians to account.

“Something is happening to the post-war on terror, post-Iraq generation around the country,” she said. “They are radicalised but in a good way, in that, frankly, if I was them, I’d be pretty pissed off with my generation. I don’t think my generation has done that great a job and I think the teenagers and students have a lot to be pretty cross about. They didn’t warm the planet, they didn’t crunch the credit, they didn’t start the wars - the real ones and the metaphysical ones - but they are paying the bills. They are now ready to take their moment and I feel very optimistic about it.”

This event was supported by The Open University.




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