Humanists UK expresses concern as Government launches review into the Human Rights Act

7 December, 2020

The Government has launched a panel to examine the Human Rights Act 1998, which enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law and allows UK citizens to have their cases taken under the Convention heard in UK courts.

This announcement follows the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto pledge to ‘update the Human Rights Act and administrative law.’ The review panel will be led by former Court of Appeal Judge, Sir Peter Gross, and focus on the relationship between UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights, the executive, and Parliament. It will also examine the application of the Act outside the territory of the UK. The Government stated that it is committed to the Convention, which implies that unlike its commitments in its 2015 and 2017 general election, this review will not seek to repeal the Act entirely, but it still could weaken its protections or make it harder for citizens to access the justice system.

Humanists UK has expressed concern about the potential for the UK’s human rights framework to be weakened by this review. Humanists UK leads a coalition of over 100 charities, trades unions, and human rights organisations in calling for the protection of Human Rights Act and judicial review, which allow all citizens to legally challenge infringements against their rights.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented,

‘There must not be any rolling back of human rights protections in this country. The Human Rights Act is the keystone of our human rights and constitutional framework and is a central tool for every citizen to ensure that they are treated lawfully and fairly by the state. As such it is a vital safeguard against the abuse of power by the state, whether that be the central, devolved, or local governments, or any other public service.

‘For over 20 years, the Human Rights Act has ensured that the correct balance has been struck between the power of judges and the powers of the Government and Parliament, putting the principle of parliamentary sovereignty at its heart. Further, the relationship between the UK and Strasbourg courts is clearly defined within the Act. Therefore, we do not believe that fundamental reform in these areas is needed.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about the Human Rights Act panel.

Read more about our work on human rights and equality.

Read more about our coalition to defend the Human Rights Act and Judicial Review.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.