Amnesty slams UK on civil liberties

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The UK has been heavily criticised for its “worrying assault on civil liberties” in Amnesty’s flagship annual report on human rights across the world.

The human rights organisation hits out at what it calls Britain’s “reduced access to justice and ever more invasive surveillance” seen over the last 12 months.

The UK Government is accused of rushing through legislation without enough time for parliamentary debate, such as anti-terror measures, and it flags two cases heard at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which ruled the intelligence services including GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 had been operating unlawfully.

The UK section of the State of the World’s Human Rights report 2014/2015 also notes the continued failure to set up a judge-led public inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition of detainees.

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: “The UK is going in the wrong direction on rights, protections and fairness. Public safety is paramount but not at the cost of basic civil liberties.

“Twice this year GCHQ spies have been rumbled breaking the law. Just last week, the Government was forced to concede its regime for intercepting lawyer-client communications was illegal.

“We should all be concerned about waking up in a surveillance state without having a proper public debate about it first.

“The UK talks the talk on the global stage on human rights but this year’s summary shows they need to tend to their own garden.”

Amnesty warns that Conservative plans to repeal the Human Rights Act if they are elected as a majority in May threaten to place significant restrictions on rights.

It also cites concerns from charities and campaign organisations over the introduction into law of the Lobbying Bill as it is claimed it will reduce their ability to speak freely.

The report also states that cuts to legal aid combined with restrictions to judicial review have significantly reduced access to justice in the UK.

In addition, it raises concerns over the UK only filling 90 of its 500 resettlement places for the most vulnerable Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict.

At an international level, Amnesty’s annual report condemns what it calls a “violent response” from states to atrocities by militant groups, including the resumption of executions in Pakistan following the school massacres and the extra-judicial executions of suspected Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

A UK Government spokesman said: “This government is committed to upholding and championing human rights here and around the world. We place enormous value on balancing privacy and security, and considering openness and transparency in all aspects of policy-making.

“We are the first government to make public more detail than ever before about the work of the security and intelligence agencies, which is subject to robust legal oversight and independent safeguards. And our legal aid reforms are both fair to the taxpayer and to those who need to access it.”

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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