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PROJECTS

International principles for domestic bills of rights processes

The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, the University of Strathclyde's Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law are undertaking a joint research project to identify and examine key principles drawn from international human rights law, which are binding on the UK, against which to measure domestic bills of rights processes such as those currently underway in UK and some of its devolved jurisdictions.

Principles which are being considered as part of the research project include, for example, states' obligations to respect, protect and fulfil rights; the obligation to provide an effective framework of remedies; the obligation to provide for effective monitoring and reporting; the right to public participation in the making of domestic legislation affecting rights; and the duty of non-regression in rights protection.

This research will assist with consideration of the UK Government's plans to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and replace it with a controversial "Bill of Rights". If enacted in its current form, the Bill will change significantly the human rights framework in the UK. Many of the Bill's provisions embody proposals that are at odds with the recommendations of the Independent Human Rights Act Review commissioned by the Government, a recent inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and with the majority of responses to Government's own public consultation on the proposals. Nonetheless, the Bill was introduced in Parliament in June with a Second Reading expected on 12 September.

There have also been initiatives in the devolved jurisdictions to adopt human rights legislation where their competencies allow them to do so. In the case of Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement stipulated the creation of a Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, with functions which include advising the UK government on the adoption of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The Commission published a report in 2008 recommending the introduction of a comprehensive Bill of Rights, but this has not yet come to fruition due in part to failures to secure a political consensus.

In the case of Scotland, a National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership published a report in March 2021 that recommended the adoption of a statutory human rights framework. It is to include the ECHR rights and incorporates a broad range of UN human rights treaties (ICESCR, UNCRC, CRPD, CEDAW and CERD) providing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as well the right to a healthy environment. The Scottish Government accepted the Report in full and is committed to conducting a public consultation and then introducing a Human Rights Bill to the current session of the Scottish Parliament.

In the case of Wales, the Welsh Government commissioned research in January 2020 to examine options to strengthen and advance equality and human rights in Wales. The findings of this research were published in August 2021, and advised that the Welsh Government should introduce primary legislation to give effect to international human rights in Welsh law through a Human Rights (Wales) Act. The report recommended that a human rights taskforce be established to bring forward detailed proposals for this Act.

This project is led by Professor Kate O'Regan (Bonavero Institute), Professor Alan Miller (Strathclyde) and Murray Hunt (Bingham Centre). The principal researcher is Emma Rowland at the Bonavero Institute (emma.rowland@exeter.ox.ac.uk).

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