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10 Dec 2020

Human Rights

Human Rights Day 2020 – Recover Better

As we celebrate this year’s Human Rights Day, Craig Court, a senior associate solicitor specialising in actions against public authorities, explains the basic principles of human rights and talks about his experience in this complex but rewarding area of law.

What are human rights?

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from the day we are born to the day we die.

Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination, regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life.

They can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted with justification – for example, if you break the law, or in the interests of national security.

These rights are based on the shared values of dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence, and are defined and protected by law.

Here in Britain, our human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European Convention of Human Rights, sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. This Act helps ordinary people to fight injustice and hold those in power to account. It places public authorities in the UK under an obligation to treat everyone with fairness, equality and dignity.

How do human rights help us?

Human rights are relevant to all of us, not just those who face repression or mistreatment. They protect us in many areas of our day-to-day lives, including:

  • Our right to have and express our own opinions
  • Our right to an education
  • Our right to a private and family life
  • Our right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state

In addition to the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out 30 rights and freedoms in total.

We often take our human rights for granted. It is only when our rights are violated that we stand up and take notice.

What is Human Rights Day?

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December to commemorate the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The theme of this year’s Human Rights Day is ‘Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights’. It focuses on the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts. According to the United Nations, the Covid-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just and sustainable.

My interest in human rights law

I first became interested in human rights law when I was working on a case where the state had failed to protect a mother from her violent ex-husband who, after years of abuse shot her in her place of work. Fortunately, she went on to recover but sadly her son tragically took his own life in the following weeks and we had to consider whether it all could have been prevented if the right state measures had been in place for the victim and her family.

At Harding Evans, we regularly bring actions under the Human Rights Act, helping those who have been discriminated against or failed by the authorities. I passionately believe that everyone has the right to be treated fairly, irrespective of their background, colour, age, gender, sexuality or religious beliefs, and have helped dozens of clients fight for justice when they or their family members have been wrongly punished or treated badly by a public authority.

Very often, the issue is that the authorities fail to act quickly enough or put the right measures in place to prevent tragic events from happening. For example, I am working on several very sad cases at the moment where people who are suffering with severe mental health issues were able to take their own lives because of failings by the relevant authorities.

Cases like these are obviously devastating for their families who want justice but don’t know where to turn. Dealing with any public authority can be intimidating and very often, our clients are not able to stand up for themselves but with our expertise and experience, we can help them to get their voices heard.  As one of only a few solicitors in Wales who have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to conduct this type of work, we are able to offer legal aid for those who qualify but can also consider other funding arrangements such as ‘No-win, no-fee’, depending on the type of case.


Get in touch

If you feel your human rights have been breached and you have been treated unfairly, get in touch with our expert team for a free and confidential discussion on 01633 244233 or email hello@hevans.com.

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