Past and aspiring US President Donald Trump recently boasted to the One America News Network that he hasn’t read his country’s constitution. Nonetheless he felt able to argue that “…from what I’ve been told, most of it is a waste of paper, quite frankly…The fifth amendment is the only part worth saving.” That famous clause in the American Bill of Rights grants a number of fairness protections to those facing criminal charges – notably the right not to incriminate themselves.
Our own deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab is currently under a Number 10 investigation into allegations of bullying staff. He takes a similar “cherry-picking” approach to human rights. His plan to scrap and replace the Human Rights Act would remove or reduce many of its protections, not least the positive obligations upon the police and other public authorities to protect vulnerable victims of crime.
He and his ministerial colleagues take an equally hard line on climate protesters and workers striking for a living wage at home and the victims of persecution overseas. In a year when the government allowed the British public to open their hearts and homes to those fleeing war in Ukraine, no equivalent “safe routes” were provided for refugees seeking to escape Iran, Syria or most of the most dangerous places in the world. If they get here they are detained and dehumanised for their trouble. So “cherry-picking” rights and freedoms, quickly becomes choosing between worthy and unworthy human beings.
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International Human Rights Day is celebrated each December 10 to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the war in 1948. I always think it just as appropriate that it should be so close to Christmas, when we think about those we love and those less fortunate than ourselves.
This year it also coincides with the Fifa World Cup and we have already witnessed the grim spectacle of players being forced to give up rainbow armbands of support for LGBTQ+ people – oppressed in the host country of Qatar. Migrant construction workers are also treated as second class humans there. Thousands of them died in the years leading up to the most prestigious football showcase.