on Commission for Equality and Human Rights
CHRI London Office
Francesca Klug, a member of the
Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) set up to advise
it on proposals for the Commission, welcomed the publication of
the White Paper: Until now Britain has stuck out like a
sore thumb as one of a small minority of countries world-wide
without any national human rights body. Today marks the beginning
of the end of this distinction.
established by the 1998 Human Rights Act, individuals were free
to pursue cases of human rights abuse through the courts but a
statutory body to promote widespread understanding of, or compliance
with, the principles established by these cases did not exist.
Expected to begin
work in 2006, the CEHR will become the first legal body in Britain
with a mandate to promote human rights and equality. The Commission
is designed to work with other agencies in order to ensure that
public institutions comply with existing equalities and human
rights legislation and take a standardised approach to best practices.
The human rights
powers proposed for the Commission outlined in the White Paper
The new Commission
will have the remit to push human rights on the public agenda
and to use court actions to advance issues it deems important.
Under powers of general enquiry, the Commission will
be able to help to tackle systemic or not well known cases of
abuses including, the elderly in care homes, school bullying,
harassment and discrimination against people with disabilities.
However, the JCHR
has raised some questions regarding the precise nature of the
duties to be placed upon the Commission in relation to the promotion
and protection of human rights. The primary concerns of the JCHR
include the power of the Commission to conduct general inquiries
into matters of equality and human rights, support individual
court cases, create dispute resolution mechanisms, seek judicial
reviews of public authorities under the Human Rights Act as well
as institutional and funding arrangements of the new body. The
JCHR expects to continue to work with the Government to address
these remaining areas of difference before the passage of legislation
establishing the Commission.
Despite these questions, the Commission should be able to provide
significant assistance to individuals who experience discrimination
and human rights abuses in their daily lives. The Commission is
also expected to work closely with community groups at the local