By: Guest Blogger Nathalie Martin
On Tuesday I was lucky enough to spend the day in Brighton attending the launch event of the BIHR Human Rights Tour 2013.
At the beginning of the day I knew almost nothing about human rights in the UK. How do I know this for sure? Because the day started off with us filling out a form to gauge our knowledge and, after being reluctantly honest with my answers, I was left feeling embarrassed about how little I knew and hoping no one around me could read what I’d written over my shoulder!
However, after discreetly folding my answers and returning them to the information pack I’d been given, I decided not to worry about it. After all I’d come along to learn more about this subject so in a way this was the ideal starting point. I only hoped that I wouldn’t be the only person in the room not to be working in a relevant field with everything going way above my head.
But I needn’t have worried because although a lot of people did have direct experiences of many of the issues we were learning about, this turned out not to be as intimidating as I had feared and instead proved to be one of the best things about the day. Having such a varied and informed group of people enabled some really interesting debates to take place as well as creating the unique opportunity to listen to first hand experiences.
Throughout the course of the day we learnt about the history of human rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act, which allows breaches of human rights listed to be taken through UK courts. We also learnt about the difference between absolute rights and non-absolute rights. We also heard from some representatives from the charity Mind Brighton and Hove who showed us just how important it is to respect the rights protected by the Human Rights Act, by sharing with us some upsetting examples of when these had been breached.
For me the highlight of the day was learning and understanding how the Human Rights Act can be applied to various situations. Initially, when I heard we were to look at case studies and identify which articles of the Act had been breached I thought there was no way I wouldn’t be out of my depth. I was expecting to be faced with an exhaustive list packed with legal jargon and expressions I would have to pretend to understand but instead, in front of me, was a document I found surprisingly clear. What’s more, as my group attempted to match case studies with human rights, I realised that somehow I could do it. It really isn’t that difficult to understand what it contains and how it applies in real life situations. And if I can understand it, with no legal background whatsoever, and feel confident in applying it, then anyone can.
I think it’s incredibly important for people to know their rights so that they are in a position to identify when these are being violated and also to have the confidence and knowledge to challenge and prevent such situations when required. Something that particularly struck me during the day is that a large proportion of people who are vulnerable to human rights violations by public authorities, are those very individuals in our society who are either unable to speak up for their rights or are prevented from doing so. It is therefore important that people are not only empowered so that they can stand up for their own rights but also that we collectively support human rights. This inspired my piece of human rights bunting, on which I wrote “speak out for your rights and the rights of others”.
Because of this I am pleased to be able to say I’ve signed the Human Rights Charter, demonstrating my support for the Human Rights Act and commitment to building a culture of respect for human rights.
The Human Rights Tour has just started and I would strongly recommend going along to a day if you want to learn more about human rights in the UK. I can guarantee an enjoyable day where you will have the opportunity to meet fascinating people, learn things you didn’t know before and take part in some very lively and rewarding discussions. You can find out more information about the Tour here or you can book your free place at one of the events here.