The UK is “backsliding on human rights” and must be stopped, a Council of Europe official has warned.
The organisation, which was co-founded by Winston Churchill following the Second World War, took aim at proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act, as well as new protest laws and moves to criminalise asylum seekers crossing the English Channel.
Dunja Mijatović, its commissioner for human rights, said: “Legal reforms should not weaken human rights protections in the United Kingdom.”
Following a five-day visit to Britain, where she met ministers including justice secretary Dominic Raab, she added: “It is worrying that the proposed legal reforms might weaken human rights protections at this pivotal moment for the UK, and it sends the wrong signal beyond the country’s borders at a time when human rights are under pressure throughout Europe.”
Mr Raab has insisted that his planned Bill of Rights would not weaken human rights protections in the UK, but Ms Mijatović said it would make significant changes to how people can enforce their rights.
She highlighted that the proposals were part of a “wider context” of laws affecting the freedom to protest and specific groups, such as asylum seekers and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Ms Mijatović warned that the effective protection of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was a “foundation” to the Good Friday Agreement, warning that attempts to preserve peace in Northern Ireland must not be undermined.
The human rights commissioner said new proposals on how to review Troubles-related cases may not be compliant with ECHR standards on independent and effective investigations and “could lead to impunity”.
She also raised concerns over the rights of children amid the continued effects of the Covid pandemic and mounting cost of living crisis.
“The high number of children living in, or at risk of, poverty is a serious human rights problem affecting every other aspect of their safety and well-being”, Ms Mijatović said.
She warned of an “increasingly hostile public discourse, supported by some politicians and by media reporting” towards trans people, adding: “Contrary to what some are trying to suggest, protecting women’s rights and the rights of trans people is not a zero-sum game.
“The current discourse is ingraining harmful gender stereotypes, which will negatively affect the protection of the rights of all involved in the long run.”
Ms Mijatović’s full report on her visit to the UK will be published at a future date.