Many thanks to James Morris-Knight for this weeks guest blog.
What do we mean when we talk about human rights? We might imagine impressive, vast buildings with felt-padded chairs seating smiling full-faced politicians of various different ethnicities and creeds, debating their response to the migrant crisis. The rubbled ruins of North Korean cities and towns might also spring to mind and also might not feel so real. But what if it were you? Imagine if that was Lincoln, Boston or Louth. Your children padding their way through decaying shopfronts or apartments; denied an education, food or even clean water.
Well, you might say “how does any of that affect me in Lincolnshire? I live in a country where my rights are respected, and I can trust my government.” And you can, but only because as Europeans we have had to learn the hard way and these rights were just as hard-won. The European Convention on Human Rights was created in 1950 in the aftermath of World War Two – intended to ensure the most serious human rights violations wouldn’t be seen again. We can be thankful that they largely haven’t and likely won’t.
The UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 upholds all 18 articles of the European Convention on Human Rights – everything from Freedom of Expression and right to a fair trial to protection from torture or slavery. But these rights need to be respected on every level, even if they don’t verge on the extreme – issues of discrimination and inequality are not as rare as one might think. We are lucky to live in a richly diverse county, our growing European community being testament to that. But you don’t have to chat to too many members of that community before you discover that sometimes they can feel isolated, that they feel they are not as welcome – that they are treated as second-class citizens.
Human rights aren’t just for those living under a totalitarian regime or for a politicians rhetoric, they are for all of us. They’re our rights, not our privileges and no one can take them away from us. That’s why it is important to understand what we mean when we talk about human rights. Human rights abuses can happen every day, even in our county; whether you’re a prisoner, a soldier or a patient in the hospital. We deserve the right to a fair trial, to not be discriminated against in our profession, we all have a right to life. The 1998 act states that only public authorities can breach your human rights – as individuals or private companies we aren’t liable – but as individuals, we should still endeavour to understand and respect them. It is not the responsibility of a few, but of the many and it is important that we champion the fundamentals of the convention.
Whether we are black, white, gay or straight, male or female – we are all equal, we all deserve the same opportunities, we are all fundamentally the same, that we are all human. I encourage you to view the European Convention on Human Rights here.