Trashing Human Rights

A humanist calls for vigilance in these troubled times. Barking and Dagenham Post opinion piece 4.11.20

In recent speeches PM Johnson and Home Secretary Patel have vilified what they call ‘leftie human rights lawyers.’ One target is those representing asylum seekers. All fair-minded people should be alarmed, whatever their political persuasion. 

Human rights are not a simple left/right issue. Sir Winston Churchill, hardly a ‘leftie’, proclaimed: “In the centre of our movement stands the idea of a Charter of Human Rights, guarded by freedom and sustained by law.” What would Churchill make of Government ministers bad-mouthing those who are trying to make sure the rule of law is upheld?

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked a milestone in human progress. It sets a benchmark for decent values which has been recognized around the globe. Attacking its principles, and fomenting hatred against lawyers trying to uphold those principles, are hallmarks of despots.

Multiple crises are reshaping the world before our eyes. Civil liberties have been curtailed in a way usually only seen in times of war. Many are being thrust into poverty. Our culture, from pubs to the arts, is being hollowed out. Of course, sacrifices may be necessary for the common good. But just as in war there are those who think sacrifice is only for others, and exploit disruption and division for their own ends.

Respect for human rights and the rule of law is about fairness and dignity for everyone. In such troubled times we must be more vigilant than ever against those who would trash these values.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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