Human rights and equality during a pandemic: our letter to the
Prime Minister on coronavirus
Ahead of the passage of emergency legislation to deal with the
COFID-19 pandemic, our Chair David Isaac has written to the Prime
Minister ( [link removed] ) to advise him on some equality and human rights considerations
which should be taken into account as the government responds to
this unprecedented situation.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission recognises and supports
the primary role of government in the current context: to keep
people safe and protect the future of our nation. This must
involve difficult decisions and compromises, far beyond the
normal scope of everyday governing. However, such actions will be
most effective when public safety and economic interests are
balanced with with our long-held values of freedom and respect.
It is possible to protect rights while saving lives. At the
Equality and Human Rights Commission, we stand ready to advise
government and parliament in accordance with our statutory
Read our letter to the Prime Minister ( [link removed] )
Our call for suspension of automated facial recognition
In evidence supplied to the United Nations ( [link removed] ) on a range of civil and political rights issues, we have
highlighted concerns about the use of automated facial
recognition (AFR) and predictive algorithms in policing and
suggested that AFR may not comply with the UK’s obligation to
respect privacy rights under the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (ICCPR).
We have now called for the use of these new technologies to be
suspended by police in England and Wales, until their impact has
been independently scrutinised and laws are improved.
As well as concern that use of AFR may not be compliant with
ICCPR, we also highlighted issues with the technology's accuracy.
There is evidence that many AFR algorithms disproportionately
misidentify Black people and women, and therefore could be
Our wide-ranging report reviews the progress the UK Government
has made, and the challenges it still faces, when implementing
the ICCPR. The full report covers:
* Enhancing the status of international human rights in domestic
* Accountability for human rights violations and complicity by
British military abroad
* Counter-terrorism measures
* Equality and non-discrimination
* The right to an effective remedy and fair trial
* Right to life, freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and
conditions in detention
* Violence against women and girls
* Deprivation of liberty
* Human trafficking on modern slavery
* Right to privacy and freedom of expression
* Rights of the child
* Right to participate in public life
Read our report to the UN ( [link removed] )
Griff Ferris ( [link removed] )
Challenges of new digital technologies
Griff Ferris from Big Brother Watch blogs for us on the civil
and political rights challenges linked to the use of automated
facial recognition technology and predictive policing programmes
by the police.
Read Griff's blog ( [link removed] )
Windrush Lessons Learned Review published
The long-awaited report from the independent review carried out
by Wendy Williams was published yesterday. The report found that
members of the Windrush generation and their children have been
poorly served by this country and that what happened to those
affected by the Windrush scandal was foreseeable and avoidable.
The Commission is fully examining Williams' findings and we will
be using our legal powers to ensure that this does not happen
Read the Windrush Lessons Learned Review ( [link removed] )
'The Windrush scandal exposed deep flaws in the UK's immigration
system, and inflicted lasting damage on the lives of many British
citizens. This independent review underlines many of our serious
and long-standing concerns about the impact of the Government's
hostile environment policies on some groups.
These are highly significant findings and we will be using our
legal powers so this does not happen again. All public bodies,
including the Home Office, have a legal duty to consider
rigorously how their actions will impact on the lives and rights
of people affected by them.'
David Isaac, Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission
Our work continues
To protect our staff and loved ones, our offices are closed and
our staff are working remotely. This means that if you write to
us by post it may take us longer than usual to respond. You can
still get in touch by email.
COVID-19 does not discriminate, but it does impact on people
differently. At these unprecedented times, it is more important
than ever that we protect those in the most vulnerable
situations. To inform our response to this crisis, we’d welcome
thoughts and views from our stakeholders on where we can use our
voice to protect and promote equality and human rights.