Human Rights Act doesn’t need fixing, Humanists UK tells review

5 March, 2021

Humanists UK has defended the operation of the Human Rights Act 1998 in response to a consultation by the Government-established Independent Human Rights Act Review.

In its submission, Humanists UK stated that the Act ‘is a signature piece of rights protection in the UK. It has not only enabled ordinary citizens to enjoy and defend liberties that were once inaccessible, it also ushered in a general culture of respect and support for rights among public authorities.’

Humanists UK elaborated that concerns raised by the review that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) exerts too much control and influence over the UK’s domestic law are based on a misunderstanding of the relationship between our domestic courts and the ECtHR, which binds UK courts less than is widely believed. Further, the accusation that the Act has shifted power away from our elected representatives to the judiciary is unfounded. ‘Courts exist as a necessary condition for the protection of human rights: if they lacked the power to enforce and uphold standards, the Act would risk becoming a mere chimaera and fundamental freedoms could be rendered nugatory.’

Humanists UK leads a coalition of over 150 charities, trades unions, and human rights organisations in calling for the protection of the Human Rights Act and judicial review. It also has submitted its joint statement on the matter to the Review.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: 

‘It is of great concern to us that this independent review follows on from repeated threats over the last ten years to amend, review, or replace elements – or in some cases the entirety – of the Human Rights Act. Despite this and negative media coverage, its impact has been undoubtedly one of great success. For the past twenty years, it has not only helped to create a normative culture of respect for rights across all public sectors, but it brought rights home for UK citizens.’


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 our response.

Read the consultation paper.

Read more about the Government’s Independent Human Rights Act Review.Read more about our work on equality and human rights.

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.