Work of the Committee in 2008-09 - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


Annex 2: Summary of UK human rights developments in 2008-09


Issue Positive developments Outstanding Concerns
Children
Withdrawal of the reservation to Article 22 to the UNCRC (relating to immigration)

Withdrawal of the reservation to Article 37 to the UNCRC (relating to children in custody with adults).

Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Publication of the Progress Report on the implementation of the Children's Plan

Adoption of the UK Border Agency's (UKBA) Code of Practice for Keeping Children Safe from Harm and the corresponding duty on UKBA to safeguard and promote the welfare of children

Government proposals for improving the education of detained children and young people, including those with special educational needs[93]

Obligation to record significant incidents involving use of force by staff on pupils (Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act)

Creation of the Child Poverty Commission as a source of independent expert advice to the Secretary of State

Introduction of the Child Poverty Bill



UK was ranked 24th of 29 European countries in the assessment report of child well-being[94]

Different types of discrimination towards children (based on age, disability, race, sex), including:

·  high incidence of bullying of children with a learning disability;

·  difficulties for young Gypsy and Traveller children in accessing suitable accommodation, public transport, GP surgeries and safe places to play, etc.

Retention of the low age of criminal responsibility

Refusal to incorporate UNCRC into the UK's law

Growing criminalisation of children, especially children from vulnerable and marginalised groups (looked after, children with autism, Gypsies and Travellers, children involved in prostitution)

High level of child deaths and self-harm in custody

Continued widespread usage of ASBOs

Poor conditions in parts of the detention system (use of strip searching, fear of bullying and assault, physical restraint, children being held in solitary confinement)

Use of pain compliance against young people in detention

Continued problems with treatment of age-disputed asylum-seeking children (the usage of x-rays and other medical assessment methods to determine age)

Relatively high rate of teenage pregnancies

Absence of protection against age discrimination for those under 18 in service provision in Equality Bill as well as limited protection in relation to the performance of public functions

Continued criminalisation of children involved in prostitution

Counter-terrorism
Additional safeguards for post charge questioning

Proposal for the use of intercept evidence in a criminal court which has the potential for reducing the number of control orders

Renewal of the control orders regime until March 2010

Continuing application of section 44 of Terrorism Act 2000 ( stop and search without suspicion)

Equality and discrimination
Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (8 June 2009)

Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (7August 2009)

Introduction of Equality Bill, including

·  public sector equality duty

·  the prohibition of age discrimination (under 18s - excluded) in service provision and the performance of public functions

·  the extension of protection for carers through the prohibition of discrimination by association.

·  widening of protection from discrimination to a combination of two grounds

Adoption of the Autism Act 2009 which sets a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare an "autism strategy".


Scope of reservations to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (for instance, on immigration control)

The Government's refusal to ratify Protocol 12 of the ECHR (relating to anti-discrimination)

Issues relating to the Equality Bill:

·  absence of constitutional guarantee to equality and a purpose clause

·  new socio-economic duty does not apply in relation to public services accessed by individuals subject to immigration control

·  absence of explicit prohibition on harassment related to sexual orientation in the areas of service provision, the performance of public functions, and disposal, management and occupation of premises

·  exemption of the armed forces from the scope of the disability provisions

·  unwillingness to extend combined discrimination to indirect discrimination, harassment and exclusion of maternity, pregnancy, marriage and civil partnership from this area

·  lack of clear definition of public authority which may have a limiting effect on the different bodies subject to the positive equality duty

Freedom of expression Abolition of the offences of seditious libel and criminal defamation
Immigration and asylum
Introduction of a positive duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that immigration, asylum, nationality and customs functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are in the UK (Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009)

Government's commitment to finding alternatives to detention of asylum-seeking families

Publication of the draft Immigration Bill which aims to simplify immigration legislation

Asylum-seeking children continue to be detained

There is a lack of data on the number of children seeking asylum

No independent oversight mechanism, such as a guardianship system, for an assessment of reception conditions for unaccompanied children who have to be returned;

Children over 10 years of age may be prosecuted if they do not possess valid documentation upon entry to the UK (Section 2, Asylum and Immigration Act 2004)[95]

Introduction of the new category of temporary leave to remain, entitled "probationary citizenship". This will constitute an additional period for which migrants are denied access to services and welfare (Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009).

Introduction of a community activity requirement (Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009) for migrants which may have a discriminatory effect on groups who are unable to undertake such activity (for instance, because of physical or mental disability, caring responsibilities, or being in full time work)

Penalisation for illegal entry affects the qualifying period for refugees and those with humanitarian protection.

Torture
Amendments to UK law on genocide and related offences in Coroners and Justice Act, Allegations of complicity in torture:

·  possible systematic receipt of intelligence which is obtained from detainees subjected to torture

·  allegations of involvement of UK security services in torture in military detention facilities in Pakistan

·  

·  Increasing evidence of more widespread abuse of detainees by UK armed forces in Iraq than previously revealed

Trafficking
Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking (1 April 2009).

Creation of a national referral mechanism, providing a nationally agreed framework to help frontline staff identify victims of trafficking and offer them support

£4m over two years to enhance the services for trafficking victims including an expansion of accommodation and support through the criminal justice system- resulting in more traffickers being brought to justice

Granting a 45 day minimum reflection and recovery period to victims and the possibility of a one-year renewable residence permit

£3.5m funding package for a new Police Central e-crime Unit (PceU) which became operational in spring 2009

Update of national trafficking action plan

Extra government funding of £3.7m to expand the Poppy Project which provides health, psychological and financial support for the victims of human trafficking[96]

Doubts to long-term future of UK Human Trafficking Centre and Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit

PrivacyDelay in implementing Marper v UK (DNA retention)[97]
Right to vote Delay in implementing Hirst v UK[98] (prisoners voting rights)
ProtestProposed repeal of SOCPA (protest around Parliament)
Women
Publication of the Violence Against Women and Girl's Strategy (November 2009): putting gender equality and violence against women and girls on the national schools curriculum

Possibility of extending by another fifteen years (to 2030) the existing provision in law which allows political parties to use all-women shortlists (Part 7 of the Equality Bill)

Clarification of equal pay law which for the first time makes it possible to bring a claim for direct sex discrimination

when a person is paid less because of their sex (Equality Bill)

Joint responsibility for birth registration (Welfare Reform Act 2009)


Absence of protection from harassment on the grounds of marriage and civil

partnership, and pregnancy or maternity (Equality Bill)

Absence of an explicit prohibition on harassment related to

sexual orientation in the areas of service provision, the performance of public

functions, and disposal, management and occupation of premises (Equality Bill)

Continuing practise of domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, sexual harassment, forced marriage, and sexual exploitation (3 million women in UK each year)

Significantly high level of self-injury and self-inflicted deaths, experience of abuse and mental health problems among women prisoners[99]



93   Under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act local education authorities (LEAs) with young offender accommodation in their area (host authorities) will be required to ensure that enough suitable education and training is provided to meet the reasonable needs of the children and young people who are subject to youth detention in their areaBack

94   Child Poverty Action Group, Child Wellbeing and Child Poverty: where the UK stands in the European table, Spring 2009.  Back

95   UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 20 October 2008, CRC/C/GBR/CO/4., paragraph 70. Back

96   http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease180609c.htm. Back

97   Application Nos.30562/04 and 30566/04. Back

98   Application No. 74025/01.  Back

99   http://www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk/adviceandsupport/prison_life/femaleprisoners/. Back


 
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