UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights Report On Black Rights

MP David Lammy speaking at the Policy Exchange in 2015.
Deontaye Osazuwa

New human rights report: over 75% of black people do not believe their human rights are equally protected compared to white people.

On Wednesday 11th November, the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights published a damning report on the government’s failure to implement previous recommendations regarding the protection of human rights in relation to black people. The report focused not only on the stark statistics highlighting the racial inequalities that still linger, but also on how black people perceive the protection of their rights.

The purpose of the report was not to uncover new examples of racial inequality but to focus on the recommendations already laid out by previous reports and encourage the government to implement all the recommendations. The report focused on three broad ethnicity groups, Black African, Black Caribbean and Black Other, including Mixed-Black, and focused on four key areas: the criminal justice system, immigration, health, and democracy.

Over 75% of black people in the UK do not believe their human rights are equally protected compared to white people

A section of the report highlighted the fact that there have been fourteen different reports and inquiries over the last three decades, from the Macpherson Report (1999), to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (2020). The report stated that the ‘failure to act in response to reports and inquiries erodes the trust of black people in the state and further compounds the impact of discrimination and denial of human rights.’

The report found that over 75% of black people in the UK do not believe their human rights are equally protected compared to white people. More specifically, over 82% of women disagreed that their human rights are equally protected, compared with 69% of men.

Recent statistics showcasing the current institutional inequalities were also included. For example, according to the MBRRACE-UK’s annual “Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care” report showed black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to white women. This is an issue that has rose in both the public’s and parliament’s awareness after an e-petition received over 180,000 signatures.

Furthermore, a Ministry of Justice and HM Prison Service report found 7.7% of the prison population were Black despite the comprising 3.4% of the population in England and Wales as of July 2020. MP David Lammy gave evidence in the report regarding his own enquiries in 2016 about the over-representation of black people in the criminal justice system. He stated that only six of the 35 recommendations had been implemented.

He also commented on the inadequate compensation given to the victims of the Windrush scandal through the Windrush Compensation Scheme, calling it a “gross insult”. The committee was both “saddened” and “angered” to hear of the death of Paulette Wilson, one of the two members of the Windrush generation who gave vital evidence to the committee and by the time of her death had still not received full compensation.

There are no Black commissioners on the ECHR board, demonstrating a lack of representation at the top level

The replacement of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 2007 with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also drew some criticism in the report.

Witnesses told the committee that the replacement compares “unfavorably” to the CRE. Lord Woolley who served for a term on the EHRC as a Commissioner, said that “it is a shadow of itself…and as a result there is little or no enforcement.”  Currently, there are no black commissioners on the EHRC board, demonstrating a lack of representation at the top level.

The report is clear in its disapproval towards the government’s unwillingness to respond to consecutive reports and that while there is inaction, the wrongs in the “architecture which is supposed to protect human rights and promote racial equality” will remain.

A copy of the report can be found here.

Deontaye Osazuwa

Featured image courtesy of Policy Exchange on Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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