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A Parliamentary Report Has Found Black People's Human Rights Are Not Being Effectively Protected In The UK

4 min read

Parliament’s Joint Human Rights Committee has condemned the Equality and Human Rights Commission as under-resourced and ineffective in protecting Black people’s human rights in the UK.

The report showed that 75% of Black people in the UK believe their human rights are not equally protected compared to white people – rising to 82% of Black women.

The Committee – made up of 12 MPs and Peers, none of whom are Black themselves – published its ‘Black people, racism and human rights’ report yesterday, and made 22 recommendations related to universal rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) including: the right to liberty which protects people from unlawful detention, the right to a family life, the right to a fair trial, and the right to life. 

The right to non-discrimination (Article 14 ECHR) means that these rights must all be enjoyed equally. However, the Committee found that not only was the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) failing to enforce those rights, but that the recommendations of 14 previous reviews and reports spanning 23 years looking at the protection of human rights of Black people in the UK had also not been consistently implemented.

The Committee put this down to “a lack of political will” by successive governments, and the EHRC lacking the “teeth” to enforce any recommendations. It noted there are currently no Black commissioners on the EHRC. This has contributed to a lack of trust of the EHRC and public services among the Black community in the UK.

The Committee called for a new high profile body to be set up, similar to the Commission for Racial Equality, which was absorbed into the EHRC in 2007. 

Lord Simon Wooley, the founder and director of Operation Black Vote, told PoliticsHome: "The highly respected Human Rights committee report into Covid-19 and devastating impact its had on BAME communities has challenged the government to act, and act comprehensively in regards persistent race inequalities that Covid-19 has laid bare and amplified, including;  employment, housing, criminal justice, and health.

He went on: "I'm particularly pleased the Committee also highlighted the BAME political deficit and argued that compulsory voter registration would help solve the problem."

Baroness Lawrence, mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, told the committee: “We have had so many reports, and every time we have a report, they go back to the beginning again and keep repeating the same thing. I am not sure how many more lessons the government need to learn. It is not just the government of today but the government of the Labour Party. How many more lessons do we all need to learn? The lessons are there already for us to implement.”

Polling undertaken for the Committee also found that 85% of black people are not confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police. Black people were 9.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales, more than five times as likely to have force used against them by police, and were subject to the use of Tasers at almost eight times the rate of white people in 2018/19.

As of June 2020, Black people made up 7.7% of the prison population in England and Wales despite comprising 3.4% of the population. Black children were more likely to be arrested, receive a caution, be remanded in custody, and given a custodial sentence than White children. Indeed, since 2017 the proportion of those in young offender institutions from BAME backgrounds has risen from 41% to 51%. 

In health, the Committee reported that 78% of Black women and 49% of Black men didn’t believe their health was equally protected by the NHS compared to white people. Recent studies have found that Black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women in the UK, and Black pregnant women are eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

Black people also had the highest rates of Covid-19 in England per 100,000: 486 in females and 649 in males compared to 220 in females and 224 in males from white ethnic groups. Black people are also detained under mental health legislation four times more than white people. 

Responding to the report, the Runnymede Trust said: “This new report reinforces what we already know: Black and Minority Ethnic people are not given the same privileges and rights as the rest of the population as a result of systemic and institutional racism...

“Runnymede has repeatedly called for action to be taken. In light of a pandemic which is disproportionately impacting Black people to devastating results, these calls can no longer be ignored. No accountability has been taken by the political system and it is time for change.”

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