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PACE committee urges UK to carefully consider provisions of recent Bills that ‘risk breaching international obligations’

A PACE committee is urging the United Kingdom government and parliament to carefully consider the content of provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill and Bill of Rights Bill that – were they to enter into force – “could risk placing the UK in breach of its international obligations”.

Unanimously approving a report today by Kamal Jafarov (Azerbaijan, EC/DA) on human rights reform in the UK, the Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights said there was “an increased willingness on the part of the UK Government, and certain legislators, to legislate in a way which could risk breaching the UK’s international legal obligations and thus the rule of law. The Assembly is extremely concerned at such developments, and in particular what signal they may send both domestically and internationally.”

The committee urged careful consideration of the content of provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill relating to the rights of refugees and stateless persons, including children and victims of modern slavery, as well as due process and appeal rights, and the Strasbourg Court’s interim measures. There was a risk that both Bills would lead to increased “legal uncertainty” and conflict between UK domestic law and the Convention, the parliamentarians said.

The committee also said the UK’s system for giving effect to the European Convention on Human Rights through the operation of the Human Rights Act was, in many respects, “an excellent example of an effective domestic mechanism” which respected the separation of powers – and it would be “regrettable” were the UK to dispense with such an excellent system, which has led to the UK having one of the lowest findings of violations of any State bound by the Convention.

While the UK had processes in place to consider the human rights and rule of law consequences of draft laws, further thought could be given to ensuring these processes “benefit from sufficient independence, transparency and due consideration”, the parliamentarians said.

The report is due to be debated by the full Assembly – which brings together legislators from all 46 nations of the Council of Europe – at its summer plenary session in Strasbourg (19-23 June 2023).