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Human Rights record of Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee ‘non existent’ claims Glasgow Human Rights Network report for Holyrood msp group

11 May

Justice Committee Scottish Parliament 11Holyrood’s Justice Committee has a poor record of considering Scots Human Rights, claims report. THE Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has been condemned in a report produced by academics from the University of Glasgow for the Cross Party Group on Human Rights at Holyrood as having  “a reductive and sceptical pattern of attitude towards human rights”. The critical report goes on to challenge the pitiful role of the Justice Committee, often seen by the public as partisan & protective of vested interests, and claims the committee “… rarely makes reference to the regional and global human rights regimes of which the UK is a member, and when it does it appears to see human rights merely as a constraint on the administration of criminal justice.”

The report (pdf), also available online here : Scottish Parliament Committees’ Perspective on Human Rights produced by Dr Kurt Mills, Senior Lecturer in International Human Rights at the University of Glasgow and Convenor of the Glasgow Human Rights Network found deficiencies in approach in several of the existing structures, most notably the Justice Committee. For example, the report notes that when discussing issues such as inclusivity of the justice system, legal aid and prisons, the Committee did not make reference to human rights which the authors found “extremely concerning.”

The findings of the report will echo with many members of the public who have asked the Justice Committee to consider issues of grave importance concerning many aspects of Scots law only to be rebuked by a divisive, prejudiced & at times, flippant group of politicians, who appear to have little regard for the inclusive Human Rights of all of Scotland.

The report calls for the Scottish Parliament to establish a separate Human Rights Committee because the current committee system has failed to adequately consider human rights issues.

A Press Release from the University of Glasgow reports that Dr Kurt Mills, Senior Lecturer in International Human Rights at the University of Glasgow and Convenor of the Glasgow Human Rights Network which produced the report said: “We found that whilst there is some consideration of human rights at Holyrood, consideration of such issues is haphazard at best. The committee with the official mandate for human rights, the Justice Committee, exhibits, according to the report, “a reductive and sceptical pattern of attitude towards human rights.” It rarely makes reference to the regional and global human rights regimes of which the UK is a member, and when it does it appears to see human rights merely as a constraint on the administration of criminal justice.”

Dr Mills continued : “It is clear that for the Scottish Parliament to adequately live up to human rights obligations found in the UK Human Rights Act, the European Convention on Human Rights, and many other international human rights instruments to which the UK is a party, it needs a mechanism whereby all relevant legislation can be considered from a human rights perspective. Current arrangements are not adequate. The most reasonable course of action is to create a human rights committee within the Scottish Parliament to act as a focal point for such review and discussion.”

The findings of the report have been backed by politicians and representatives from civic Scotland. The Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on Human Rights is the SNP MSP John Finnie:  “This report is an important examination of Parliament’s committee system’s consideration of human rights issues.  I am sure that the Parliamentary authorities will give the report appropriate consideration including a review of the need for a Parliamentary human rights committee.”

That view was endorsed by Shabnum Mustapha, Director of Amnesty International Scotland :  “Amnesty International welcomes the findings of the report which has cast a light on some of the missed opportunities to raise human rights as part of Scottish Parliamentary scrutiny of legislation. We urge the Scottish Parliament to look at how human rights considerations can be better embedded in the work of the Parliament.”

Carole Ewart, Convener of The Human Rights Consortium Scotland (HRCS), also voiced her support : “The Human Rights Consortium Scotland welcomes the report which confirms the anecdotal experiences of our members that human rights are insufficiently addressed by committees in the Scottish Parliament. We repeat our call, first made in early May 2011, that the Scottish Parliament establishes a Human Rights Committee to ensure transparency, accountability and compliance with human rights law and with Section 29 of the Scotland Act.  We believe that mainstreaming  human rights across its business will improve the design, delivery and funding of public services, reduce risk of spending public money on compensation payments and  prioritise spend on the people who need services the most.”

It is a matter of record that since it came into existence in 1999, the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has never once passed a pro-consumer reform or positively considered a public petition seeking to clean up Scotland’s “Victorian” justice system or reform key areas such as regulation of Scotland’s legal profession or deal with issues relating to Human Rights of clients & consumers against the vested interests of those in the legal establishment.

Constituents of MSPs have reported issues over the years to Diary of Injustice where politicians from all parties have failed abysmally to publicly push issues of Human Rights in the Scottish Parliament while on the other hand, being ever happy to issue congratulatory appreciations & events for some professions accused of serial breaches of mounting numbers of constituents Human Rights.

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