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​Human rights organisations welcome UN report

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Human Rights Consortium Scotland says report lays down a challenge to governments and Scottish Human Rights Commission says Human Rights Committee has taken on board its concerns

Scotland’s major human rights organisations have welcomed a report by the United Nations (UN) which is critical of the UK government’s proposal to scrap the Human Rights Act 1998.

In its latest review of the UK’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee said it is “concerned” about the Tories' reported plan to repeal the act and replace it with a new bill of rights.

The UN committee said scrapping the act would weaken the degree of protection afforded to the rights enshrined in the covenant.

Its 27 page report went on to outline a number of recommendations including that any legislation passed in lieu of the act should be aimed at strengthening the status of international human rights above and beyond what is covered in the covenant.

If you go ahead with abolishing the Human Rights Act 1998, you should replace it with something stronger and broader

Commenting on the report, Carole Ewart, co-ordinator of the Human Rights Consortium Scotland, which delivered a written and oral submission to the committee, said she was pleased with its observations.

She said the UN “has thrown down a challenge to the UK – if you go ahead with abolishing the Human Rights Act 1998, you should replace it with something stronger and broader.”

This, she added, justified “arguing for the inclusion of economic and social rights in any new bill of rights as well as more robust civil and political rights”.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission said it “strongly welcomed” the report, which also addressed human rights concerns in Scotland that it had raised.

Professor Alan Miller, chair of the commission, said: “Scotland generally performs well when it comes to human rights. But gaps still exist when it comes to a series of important issues that affect people in everyday life.

“These include unlawful police stop and search, high suicide rates, the continued use of corporal punishment in the home and problems securing access to justice.

“The commission is therefore extremely pleased that the UN Human Rights Committee has taken on board our evidence on these and other issues.

“Its robust recommendations should now be addressed by the Scottish and UK governments. The Scottish Parliament should also consider the role it can play on those issues where it has a remit to act.”

The full UN Human Rights Committee can be downloaded from its website.