From Disability News Service: Two government departments are breaching equality laws and their human rights obligations by failing to ensure that disabled people can record their face-to-face benefit assessments and appeal tribunals, legal researchers have concluded.
They say the delay by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in ensuring that all disabled people can record their assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) is causing them “significant and predictable harm”.
And they say the failure of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to ensure that all PIP appeal tribunals can be recorded is also causing “significant and predictable harm” to disabled people. MoJ’s failure to assess or even acknowledge the harm caused by the absence of recording equipment at many tribunal venues means its actions are unlawful, say researchers from the International Disability Law Clinic (IDLC) at the University of Leeds.
They say both DWP and MoJ are breaching the Equality Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Convention on Human Rights. And they say the government’s policies are unjustified and have an “adverse impact” on disabled people.
From The Observer: The Tory government is breaching fundamental obligations to protect its citizens’ right to life by failing to address the systemic problems that led to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the UK’s human rights watchdog has warned.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) outlining its concerns about the continued use of combustible cladding in existing buildings and advising the department of its responsibilities under human rights laws to protect lives.
The watchdog has yet to receive a response from the department, which in June launched a consultation into the use of cladding, believed to be a key factor in the Grenfell disaster.
The commission said it was concerned that the consultation omits any reference to the government’s duty to protect lives under article 2 of the European convention on human rights and schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998.
From The Guardian: Theresa May will oppose plans to let MPs vote to liberalise Northern Ireland’s oppressive abortion laws, Downing Street has signalled.
The landslide vote in favour of liberalising abortion laws in the Irish Republic has put the spotlight on Northern Ireland, which will be the only place in Britain and Ireland where abortion is in most circumstances illegal. The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to the region, and abortion is only allowed if the life or mental health of the mother is at risk.
From The Guardian: China’s state-run media has commended a pragmatic” Theresa May for resisting calls to publicly challenge Beijing over Hong Kong and human rights during her three-day visit.
In an editorial on Friday, the third and final day of May’s tour, the Global Times newspaper said the prime minister had wisely “sidestepped” such issues as she sought “pragmatic collaboration” between Britain and the world’s number two economy.
“Some western media outlets keep pestering May to criticise Beijing in an attempt to showcase that the UK has withstood pressure from China and the west has consolidated its commanding position over the country in politics,” the Communist party-run tabloid claimed in its English-language edition.
“Certain democracy activists in Hong Kong also intervened,” the nationalist newspaper added, pointing to an article in the Guardian on Wednesday in which Joshua Wong urged May to challenge Beijing’s “relentless crackdown” on the former British colony.
However, the Global Times congratulated May for turning a deaf ear to such calls, which it attributed to “radical public opinion”.
“May will definitely not make any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip … For the prime minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.”
From The Guardian: An asylum seeker is holed up in a hotel room in Kabul in fear for his life after the home secretary breached a high court order not to remove him from the UK and instead put him on a plane back to Afghanistan.
Samim Bigzad, 23, says he is a prime target for the Taliban because he worked in construction for the Afghan government and American companies before he sought sanctuary in the UK. Now he is back in Kabul he is even more fearful after a group of armed men in plain clothes arrived at the hotel on Wednesday and demanded to know his whereabouts.
Two high court judges have made separate orders calling for Bigzad to be brought back to the UK as a matter of urgency. The second states that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, is in contempt of court for breaching the first order not to remove Bigzad.
“I am very scared,” Bigzad said in a call from his hotel room in Kabul. “The people who work at the hotel are bringing food to me and have told me I must not leave this room at all. I think the hotel staff have a gun for protection if the men come back and try to force their way in.”
The first high court order preventing the asylum seeker’s removal was issued on Tuesday evening by Mr Justice Morris. By that time Bigzad had already been removed from the UK by the Home Office.
From The Guardian: A high court judge has said she is “deeply concerned” about the behaviour of Amber Rudd for failing to release a survivor of torture from detention despite repeated court orders requiring her to do so.
“The court is deeply concerned,” said Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE. “Four weeks have elapsed since an order was made.”
She added that the home secretary had failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for the delays in releasing the man from detention.
It is unusual for a high court judge to condemn a senior government minister in such strong terms. In a mark of her disquiet about the secretary of state’s conduct she not only awarded costs against her but also made an indemnity order – something reserved for conduct or circumstances that take a case “out of the norm” and a mark of disapproval by a judge.
The asylum seeker from Chad, who cannot be named for legal reasons, first applied for bail so that he could be released from immigration detention in April 2017. He experienced persecution both in his home country and on his journey to reach Europe when he was imprisoned in Libya.
From Human Rights Watch: The UK government just took an important step in announcing – following a campaign and under pressure from parliament – that the National Health Service (NHS) will carry out abortions at no cost to pregnant women and girls from Northern Ireland who travel to England for the procedure. The decision follows a recent UK Supreme Court judgment that, under devolved health services, women living in Northern Ireland aren’t entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England.
But while the government announcement is positive, it is also a partial and unsatisfactory solution to a problem that should not exist. Women and girls should be able to access safe abortion in Northern Ireland, and the UK government has failed in its obligations to fulfil this right there for too long.
Abortion has been legal in most of the UK since 1967, but the law explicitly excluded Northern Ireland, where it remains criminalized except when the health or life of the woman is at grave risk – denying thousands of women their reproductive rights.