The Bill of Rights


Conservatives seek to abolish the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights

Human rights are about power, who has it, who wields it and the effects on those without it. These rights have been struggled over for centuries. Once it was kings (and the occasional queen) who wielded absolute power. Gradually, it was wrested from them and parliament achieved supremacy after 1688 and the Glorious Revolution. It was a rather more bloody affair a century later in France.

The all party Human Rights Act in 1998 – a fact rather overlooked by some ministers who characterise it as ‘Labour’s’ act – incorporated the European Convention into British law and marked a sea change in the relationship between the people and the government and agents of government. It set out a series of rights which enabled the ordinary subject to challenge government decisions, negligence or criminal acts. Notable successes include the Hillsborough disaster where the police attempted to shift blame onto the supporters but after years of campaigning – using the HRA as a key lever – the surviving families were able to achieve measure of justice and highlight police failings as a key factor in the tragedy. Other scandals have involved hospitals and other police miscarriages where victims have been able to bring to light serious failings in these institutions.

Despite being such a step forward, many in the Conservative party and a major parts of the press, have waged a remorseless campaign against the act. The Conservatives have pledged to reform or abolish it in all their recent manifestos. The press have published story after story along the lines that the act prevents criminals getting their just deserts, it helps terrorists escape justice and most recently, preventing asylum seekers from being exported to Rwanda. Many of the stories are exaggerated or have nothing to do with the HRA. For readers of this material, the decision by Dominic Raab to publish the Bill of Rights this week (June 2022) cannot come too soon and will enable they believe, proper justice to return to the UK. ‘Lefty lawyers’ will be put in their place and before long, plane loads of asylum seekers will be jetted off to Africa. The power of the judiciary to intervene will be reduced.

To understand these actions, as we said above, you have to start with power. If power is exercised fairly, with the rewards of society evenly disbursed, then the holders of power have little to fear. If the leaders have the trust of the people, they are unlikely to feel threatened. But when the divide in the nation between the haves and the have-nots gets wider and wider, when the poor get ever poorer and the nation’s leaders lose the trust of the led, then they will feel threatened. The life of easy privilege will be under threat. It is tempting in these circumstances to clamp down on the means of protest, to close off avenues of redress and to curb the means by which the ordinary person can assert their rights. Hence the spate of bills and the desire to end the HRA, the very means by which the ordinary person can assert their rights against the power of the state.

In addition to the power question, we have to look at some of the other doubtful reasoning behind this bill. In an earlier post we discussed the book written by Dominic Raab and two of his cabinet colleagues arguing for the end of the act. One element was the notion of liberty and it was this which enabled Britain to become a wealthy nation they argue. Laws and regulations have hampered this liberty and thus removed our ability to be properly wealthy. Get rid of these restrictions and we will regain our prosperity.

The argument overlooked slavery which provided the money for investment, imperial preference which stifled competition, and the terrible state that ordinary people lived in, the squalor, the slums, disease and malnutrition. Indeed, they, like many other people, have forgotten the ‘recruits crisis’ where losses in the Boor war at the end of the nineteenth century were hard to replace because the physical, malnourished and unhealthy state of volunteers was so poor.

The Bill of Rights, should it become law – together with the other legislation to limit protest, enhance the powers of the police and to limit judicial oversight – will be a backward step in the development of our society. It will shift yet more power to the government and its ministers. It will drastically reduce the power of the citizen to right wrongs. It is a retrograde step.

We and others will be working to oppose its passing.


For American readers, the Hillsborough disaster was a fatal crush of people during an FA Cup football (soccer) match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, on 15 April 1989. With 96 fatalities and 766 injuries, it remains the worst disaster in British sporting history. Initially, the supporters were blamed but after decades of campaigning, using the HRA as we’ve said, police failings were eventually recognised.

Rwanda flight


Two local group members go to Boscombe Down for the first Rwanda flight

The first flight scheduled to take refugees to Rwanda as part of the government’s refugee policy designed, it is claimed, to deter boat crossings in the Channel, was switched from Stanstead to Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. The airfield is close to Amesbury. It may have been done to make protests difficult to organise because of the distance between the two.

Two members of the local group managed to get to the perimeter of the airfield which gave a view of the runway. There was a large police presence and about half a dozen camera crews as well. The charter flight could be seen in the distance. At one stage the landing lights were switched on and take off was expected. There was considerable vehicle activity on the airfield and around the aircraft. Then the lights were switched off and sometime later the flight was cancelled following a last minute intervention by the ECHR. This is likely only to be a temporary respite however.

The photos show part of the media activity, Amnesty banners and the charter flight in the distance. We apologise for the poor quality due to the low light level.

June minutes


We are pleased to attach the minutes of our June meeting thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them. At 13 pages long they might seem overlong for minutes of a meeting which normally would run to a handful of pages. However, we do not produce a newsletter and many of the items are of interest to a wider public than just those attendees. The various bills being introduced by the government are of great concern and will curb dissent and criminalise various aspects of legitimate protest.

Market stall


We held our market stall in Salisbury market yesterday after an absence of three years. We had plenty of stuff to sell but overall, the results were down on previous years. Time was when we got to the stall at 7:30 there was already a crowd of a dozen or so and it activity was pretty hectic for the first hour. Those days seem to be gone and the first hour was very quiet. Activity began to pick up towards midday and we may think of extending the timing by an hour next year.

The City Council has also changed the location and instead of being adjacent to the main market, we were placed well off to the east of the market place. Also there are two stalls placed cheek by jowl with another charity which also did not help. Times are hard of course and this month (April) was when all the cuts and energy bills came into effect. So all in all …

We had an enjoyable day and many thanks to group member Ria who took the unsold items away for another go at a car boot sale. Other items, including a quantity of hardback Booker shortlist novels, went to Oxfam who were delighted apparently. Thanks also to all group members who came and manned the stall through the day.

Photo: Salisbury Amnesty

Market stall


Market stall is back today, Saturday, 9th April

After an absence of 2 years, we are back with our popular stall in the centre of Salisbury. As you would expect, we have masses of stuff including quality books, clothes, CDs, china items and so forth. We look forward to seeing you there.

If, by chance you are thinking of joining the group, please make yourself known to one of us on the stand.

Amnesty report on apartheid in Israel


Amnesty joins Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem in declaring Israel an apartheid state

Israel works hard to present itself as a modern, pluralist state and enjoys close links with its diaspora particularly in the USA. It enjoys favourable coverage in the UK with the majority of media who are either silent about these issues or are quick to condemn criticism of the state.

We have previously reported on two other reports by respected organisations which came to the same conclusions: one by Human Rights Watch and the other from within Israel by B’Tselem. Both reports go into great detail with many examples of how the apartheid system works in Israel.

The introduction to the Amnesty report says:

There is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalized and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people. Apartheid has no place in our world, and states which choose to make allowances for Israel will find themselves on the wrong side of history. Governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the UN are supporting a system of apartheid, undermining the international legal order, and exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinian people. The international community must face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid, and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored.

From the Amnesty Report

The response by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was ‘[the report was a] collection of lies, biased claims, and recycled reports from other anti-Israel organisations’.

The report (pdf) details the bases of the apartheid claim:

  • massive seizures of land and Palestinian property
  • unlawful killing
  • restrictions on the right [of Palestinian’s] to political representation
  • drastic movement restrictions
  • denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians.

Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights.

It is interesting to note the difference between how the treatment of Palestinians in Israel contrasts with things like the Berlin wall. There were regular features of the wall with film of people attempting to scale it and footage of border guards shooting at those seeking to escape East Germany. Film of the Israeli wall by contrast are rare. During the apartheid regime in South Africa, there was considerable coverage of civil disturbances and many companies decided to cease trading there. There is precious little sign of that in the UK media’s coverage of Israel. Indeed, in the Telegraph – a right wing newspaper in the UK – the coverage led, not on the report itself and a summary of some of the conclusions, but with the Israeli government’s response: Israel labels Amnesty International ‘anti-Semitic’ over ‘apartheid’ report leaving minimal coverage of what Amnesty said to a few short sentences at the end of the piece. They also featured a 6 minute video interview with the President of the Zionist Federation of Australia with no balancing footage [accessed 2 February]. Labelling any criticism of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic’ is an automatic response and is unjustified with any of the three reports mentioned.

Dr Agnès Callamard the secretary general of Amnesty said in response: “Amnesty International stands very strongly against antisemitism, against any form of racism, we have repeatedly denounced antisemitic acts and antisemitism by various leaders around the world.” Source: Times of Israel.

The report makes a large number of recommendations. With three detailed reports now published it is hard for Israel to ignore and deny the accusation of apartheid.

We have come across this video of a young girl who has made several videos and this one is worth watching. Janna Jihad video – Amnesty

January minutes


Group minutes for January 2022

We are pleased to attach the minutes of the group’s meeting help via Zoom thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling them. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that we do not produce a newsletter – partly because we were not able to secure an outlet for them in the printed form – so these minutes are much fuller than normal meeting minutes to enable a wider audience to review content.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: