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Citizens' Privileges or Human Rights? The Great Bill of Rights Swindle


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Speaker(s): Shami Chakrabarti
Chair: Professor Francesca Klug

Recorded on 20 March 2012 in Old Theatre, Old Building.

New Labour arguably left Britain more comfortable in its diversity and better protected by anti-discrimination law. Equal treatment for gay people advanced significantly and the Human Rights Act provides a modern Bill of Rights for everyone in the Kingdom. Curiously however, parallel laws dishonoured these values in thought, word and deed. Home affairs hyperactivity left ours a less friendly country in which to seek asylum, dissent or even be young. The Coalition bound itself together with "civil liberties" and quickly reversed some excesses of the previous decade. Last year's "Arab Spring saw it promote human rights abroad. However the Government appears bitterly divided by them at home. Is the debate about a more "British" Bill of Rights, political genius, pragmatic fudge or a dangerous swindle capable of depriving us all of vital protection against abuse of power?

Shami Chakrabarti has been Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties) since September 2003. Shami first joined Liberty as In-House Counsel on 10 September 2001. She became heavily involved in its engagement with the "War on Terror" and with the defence and promotion of human rights values in Parliament, the Courts and wider society. A Barrister by background, she was called to the Bar in 1994 and worked as a lawyer in the Home Office from 1996 until 2001 for Governments of both persuasions. Since becoming Liberty's Director she has written, spoken and broadcast widely on the importance of the post-WW2 human rights framework as an essential component of a democratic society. She is Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, a Governor of the British Film Institute, and a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford in addition to being a Master of the Bench of Middle Temple. She was recently invited to be one of 6 independent assessors advising Lord Justice Leveson in his Public Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the UK Press.

Francesca Klug is professorial research fellow and director of the Human Rights Futures Project at LSE.

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