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LEGAL UPDATE-Independent inquiry into human rights announced

Independent inquiry into human rights announced

Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has announced the launch of an inquiry into human rights in the UK. The inquiry will be a frank and independent appraisal of how human rights operate. The findings are expected in December 2008.

The inquiry will be chaired by Dame Nuala O’Loan, the former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.  The announcement comes as Britain approaches the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Human Rights Act and the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet despite human rights featuring in British law for nearly a decade, a GfK NOP poll for the Commission showed that the term ‘human rights’ still prompts blank or mixed reactions from a large proportion of the British public.

According to the poll, 40% have either not heard the phrase ‘human rights’, are unable to name any of the protected rights or don’t know if they support the legislation. Nevertheless, 47% supported ‘human rights’ laws in Great Britain.  

The poll showed: 

  • 56% agree that ‘people only talk about their human rights when they’re trying to get something they’re not entitled to’.
  • 68% agree that the government is ‘more concerned about the human rights of minority groups than those of the average person’.
  • 81% agree ‘there are some problems with human rights in Britain’.
  • Only 23% agree that ‘the media reports human rights stories fairly’.

Among those who were familiar with the term ‘human rights’ and who understood what at least one of their rights would be, the majority were supportive.



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