The comments also come at a time of popular resistance, following weeks of nationwide protests about the future of freedom of expression in Britain.
Coming under fire in the report were the:
- Breakdown in the rights of elderly care-home residents during the Covid-19 pandemic
- Reluctance of the Conservative government to conduct a review on Coronavirus failures, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages for frontline workers
- Immigration policies, including the inadequate housing of refugees in centres not fit for purpose (such as the Dungavel removal centre, where residents were effectively abandoned, exposing them to Covid-19)
- Government’s re-establishing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia (2020 reports placed the UK as the world’s second largest arms-exporter)
- Worsening of rights for minority communities, including the government failing to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) acceptably, and the discriminatory policing of Black and Asian people
- Ongoing, highly controversial detention of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange
“Moving in the wrong direction… at an accelerating rate”
Amnesty’s UK director Kate Allen stressed:
Having made mistake after lethal mistake during the pandemic, the government is now shamefully trying to strip away our right to lawfully challenge its decisions no matter how poor they are.
And she added that:
For years, the UK has been moving in the wrong direction on human rights – but things are now getting worse at an accelerating rate.
She then summarised the situation as follows:
On the right to protest, on the [review of the] Human Rights Act, on accountability for coronavirus deaths, on asylum, on arms sales or on trade with despots, we’re speeding toward the cliff edge.
Allen had also commented on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill before the release of the report. The legislation would boost police powers to crack down on protests authorities deemed to be ‘noisy or annoying’. And the Amnesty UK director said:
The Bill itself is so broad in scope that it is a threat to everybody. Threatening the rights to peaceful protest is only one alarming area of new policing powers, others relate to stop and search or restricting the rights to roam will only further entrench racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system.
Temporary restrictions on our civil liberties during a time of pandemic are one thing – but a law that permanently restricts the right to peaceful protest is totally unacceptable.
Overall, Amnesty’s recent comments on the human rights situation in the UK are of great concern. And they confirm the need for activist groups to organise to resist systemic abuses and protect freedom of expression.
Main article image used with permission