The UK must protect economic and social rights with a new law – here’s what should change

file-20190411-44810-69lpa7Koldo Casla & Peter Roderick

This article was published first in The Conversation

Like many other countries, the UK has voluntarily subscribed to a number of international treaties which say that everyone living in the country is entitled to the right to adequate housing, the right to health, the right to social security and other socio-economic rights.

But unlike other countries, by and large these rights have not been incorporated in domestic law, which means that people living in the UK do not have an effective legal way to claim their rights. The UK is an outlier.

That’s why we’ve just launched a consultation on an Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Bill that we’ve developed together with colleagues from other universities and from civil society. It’s the first stage in a process that we hope will eventually end in such a bill being introduced in the British parliament.

The good news is that this means there are several models of incorporating economic and social rights into a country’s legal system that the UK could learn from.

Over 90% of the world’s constitutions recognise at least one socio-economic right. In around 70% of them at least one of these rights is explicitly enforceable in court, and 25% recognise ten or more socio-economic rights as judicially enforceable – particularly those relating to education, trade unions, health-care, social security, child protection and the environment.

The Finnish constitution, for example, imposes the obligation on parliament to legislate for the protection of socio-economic rights, and a widely respected parliamentary committee leads a thorough oversight of this constitutional responsibility. Canadian courts have the power to strike down legislation if it contravenes the constitutional bill of rights, and courts normally give parliament and government a period to comply with judgments.

The South African system creates the expectation that public authorities will adopt reasonable measures to improve the enjoyment of the rights to housing, health and food. In some circumstances, people in South Africa can claim compensation in court if they think they have been victims of public decisions that do not meet that principle of reasonableness. The Spanish constitution establishes that the constitutional bill of rights must be interpreted in accordance with international human rights law, which is part of the domestic legal order.

What would change

Continue reading “The UK must protect economic and social rights with a new law – here’s what should change”

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Supreme Court of Spain: UN Treaty Body individual decisions are legally binding

angela pic womens linkThis article was published in EJIL: Talk!

The Spanish Supreme Court has established that the views expressed by UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies in individual complaints are binding on the State. The Court ordered Spain to pay €600,000 in compensation to Ángela González for the responsibility of its authorities in relation to the death of her daughter. Her daughter was murdered by her father in an unsupervised visit authorised by a judge. National courts dismissed Ángela’s case, but the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) found a breach of her human rights. The Supreme Court has now affirmed that the State must comply with the Committee’s decision. This article discusses the significance of the case and the principle established by it. Continue reading “Supreme Court of Spain: UN Treaty Body individual decisions are legally binding”

Pero, ¿quiénes fueron José Antonio y Francisco Franco? Una visita al Valle de los Caídos

http_o.aolcdn.comhssstoragemidas9d6e1161c8eae10cf48629ae6dc11577206503435Captura+de+pantalla+2018-07-04+a+las+11.03.24Este artículo fue publicado en El Huffington Post

Estoy pasando unos días en la Sierra de Madrid y una calurosa tarde he conseguido que me lleven al Valle de los Caídos. No voy a gastar letras explicándole mis razones. Digamos que últimamente tengo la memoria bastante presente. Pero dejemos el tema de la motivación para otro artículo.

Son las cinco y somos el último de tres coches en la entrada. A la derecha una periodista de La Sexta practica su intervención ante el cámara.

El ticket cuesta nueve euros por persona. No es barato pero no me pilla desprevenido porque me había informado en internet. Se paga desde el coche. Mi acompañante interroga escéptica: “¿Este dinero adónde va?” Se hace un silencio que a mí me parece innecesariamente largo. Claramente no es la primera vez que se lo preguntan. “Es Patrimonio Nacional. Es del Estado.” Pagamos.

Dentro del recinto del valle hay fauna y flora variada, o eso anuncian los carteles, pero yo no había venido en su busca. A velocidad prudente y cuesta arriba, tras unas cuantas curvas llegamos al aparcamiento. Estacionamos sin dificultad. Habrá una veintena de vehículos pero muchos más huecos. Pasamos lo suficientemente cerca del bar/restaurante como para escuchar frases sueltas de comensales en diversas mesas. Nada reseñable francamente (con perdón), pero me sorprende la comodidad con la que charlan. Yo cómodo precisamente no me siento. También hay un funicular hasta la cruz, pero no funciona.

Minutos después nos encontramos frente al monumento. Es gigante, como lo había imaginado. Abruma. A ambos extremos dos mayúsculos escudos franquistas hacen de escolta en piedra. “Es del Estado”, recuerdo las palabras de la funcionaria de la taquilla.

Hay un contraste notable entre la calma del entorno y la agresividad del mausoleo. Quien ordenó construir este sitio tuvo que ser un hombre acomplejado, temeroso de que la historia no lo fuera a recordar con cariño, o de que no lo fuera a recordar a secas. Continue reading “Pero, ¿quiénes fueron José Antonio y Francisco Franco? Una visita al Valle de los Caídos”

Nadie debería tener miedo de ir a clase

Persons hand filming two schoolboys fighting in school corridor with mobile phone, Bavaria, GermanyEste artículo fue publicado en el Huffington Post como avance de la investigación en curso sobre acoso escolar en España

“Después de todo, ¿dónde comienzan los derechos humanos? En lugares minúsculos, muy cerca de casa. Son tan cercanos y tan pequeños esos sitios que no son visibles en ningún mapa del mundo. Aún así, conforman el mundo de toda persona: el vecindario en el que vive, la escuela o universidad a la que asiste; la fábrica, granja u oficina donde trabaja.”

Son palabras de Eleanor Roosevelt, una de las madres de la Declaración Universal de 1948. Su papel fue clave para el desarrollo del derecho internacional el siglo pasado. Pero estas palabras suyas reconocen que donde verdaderamente se la juegan los derechos humanos no es en Ginebra, en Estrasburgo o en Nueva York; es en la distancias cortas.

En el cole o en el instituto, por ejemplo.

El desarrollo de la personalidad, la no discriminación, la libertad individual, la igualdad de género y el respeto a los derechos humanos son principios fundamentales del sistema educativo. No lo digo yo. Lo dice la Ley Orgánica de Educación.

Sin embargo, para miles de niños y niñas estas palabras suenan huecas. Adolescentes de toda España sufren acoso escolar de forma cotidiana, y las políticas públicas les están fallando poniendo sus derechos en juego.

El bullying o acoso escolar se define como una agresión física, verbal o relacional, intencionada y repetida en el tiempo, y en la que subyace un desequilibrio de poder real o aparente que impide a la víctima defenderse.

Es un tema de derechos humanos y por eso Amnistía Internacional está llevando a cabo su primera investigación sobre el tema a nivel mundial. Y la estamos haciendo en España. Continue reading “Nadie debería tener miedo de ir a clase”

El deseo para el hombre; la heroicidad para la mujer

Indignación por la sentencia de "La manada"Este artículo fue publicado en El Huffington Post.

No voy a comentar el criterio de la mayoría de la Sección Segunda de la Audiencia Provincial de Navarra.

Respecto al Código Penal diré que ya es hora de escribir en el BOE que sin consentimiento el sexo no es tal sino violación.

Quisiera eso sí llamar la atención sobre estas palabras del extenso voto particular del magistrado que, como me decía una amiga hoy, ya les ha preparado el recurso a los acusados. El Ilustrísimo Señor Don Ricardo Javier González González les habría absuelto al no encontrar en las imágenes de la joven ‘atisbo alguno de oposición, rechazo, disgusto, asco, repugnancia, negativa, incomodidad, sufrimiento, dolor, miedo, descontento, desconcierto o cualquier otro sentimiento similar’ (página 245 de la sentencia).

Este es el mensaje que recibo como hombre al leer este y otros párrafos del voto discrepante: Puedo dar por hecho que la mujer que yo anhele en cada momento consentirá a no ser que exprese claramente su rechazo. Continue reading “El deseo para el hombre; la heroicidad para la mujer”

The duty on public authorities to reduce socio-economic inequality needs to be brought into force

LAG-circle-150x150This article was written by Koldo Casla and Jamie Burton in Legal Action Magazine.
In December 2017, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced its own inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster (Following Grenfell: the human rights and equality dimension – statement from the Equality and Human Rights Commission). Unlike Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s inquiry, the commission will examine whether the public sector duty regarding socio-economic inequalities, ‘if in force, would have made any difference to what happened’ (page 5).
The socio-economic duty is contained in Equality Act 2010 s1 and requires government ministers, councils and other public authorities to have due regard to ‘the desirability of exercising [their functions] in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage’. It complements the public sector equality duty set out in s149; however, successive governments post-2010 have declined to bring it into effect.

Continue reading “The duty on public authorities to reduce socio-economic inequality needs to be brought into force”

The UK must commit to social rights for its citizens after Brexit

The UK must commit to social rights for its citizens after Brexit

File 20171204 22986 1wd1a0x.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
shutterstock.

Koldo Casla, Newcastle University

Regardless of what you think of the UK’s relationship with the European Union, you should consider this: the EU (Withdrawal) Bill currently passing through the British parliament puts some important social rights at risk.

Social rights are the right to health, education, an adequate standard of living (including food and adequate housing) and to social security. The UK has ratified a number of international social rights treaties, the most important of which is the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

International treaties are legally binding for countries that voluntarily sign and ratify them. The UK and 165 other countries have done so in the case of the ICESCR. However, the UK has not yet incorporated the ICESCR into its domestic legal system. As a result of that, social rights remain relevant in the political discourse but, by and large, legally toothless.

However, people living in the UK do enjoy a number of social rights as a result of the UK’s membership of the European Union.

British laws protecting workers from discrimination and protecting their maternity leave rights, for example, come from EU directives. The European Court of Justice has developed some of these rights on equal pay for equal work and equal access to state pensions. Workers are also entitled to compensation if their EU labour rights are breached.

Europe will no longer offer support to British citizens if the UK government infringes on its rights.
EPA

The UK supreme court drew on EU law when it insisted that employers have to give spouses in same-sex marriages the same pension rights as heterosexual couples. The same court also concluded that employment tribunal fees (charging people for taking action against their employers for unfair treatment) made access to justice practically impossible or excessively difficult for too many people, and that breached EU law as well. The High Court of England and Wales echoed the right to health recognised in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights when it ruled to keep plain packaging for cigarettes.

All these steps were directly or indirectly the result of the UK being an EU member state. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill puts many of these rights at risk. In its current form the bill will erase the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and all the protections that come with it. These protections will no longer apply to British citizens and other residents after Brexit day.

Seeking continuity

As the Conservative MP and former attorney general Dominic Grieve recently argued in parliament, the problem of the EU
(Withdrawal) Bill is that equality or environmental policies, for example, will no longer enjoy the legal protection that EU membership gives them. British authorities will therefore be free to lower or indeed remove the standards that currently protect British people.

In response to this problem, the former High Court judge Michael Tugendhat has advocated that UK courts should have the power to ignore an act of parliament if it is contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and EU human rights principles.

And to avoid losing equality rights, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has said that courts should be able to declare that an act of parliament is contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Such a declaration would send a message to parliament that it should consider appealing or amending the offending act – though it would not be obliged to do so and could choose to do nothing at all.

A British tradition

Social rights have been part of Britain’s tradition for centuries and Brexit should not change that. This year marks the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, which limited landlords’ privileges, facilitated free men’s access to the common land and granted women’s rights that were revolutionary for the standards of the time. Britain is also the land of the Peasants’ Revolt of the 14th century and of the Putney Debates in 1647, the birthplace of Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill, the stronghold of the labour movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, the country of the NHS, the home of the council house.

The UK must match these historical milestones with a categorical legal and political commitment to social rights in the 21st century.

It is not an overstatement to claim that Brexit is a constitutional juncture of unique historical relevance. As Britons look for the future they want to live in, now more than ever they must take back control of their rights. Britain should bring social rights home by incorporating international human rights law into the national legal system.

Koldo Casla, Research Associate, Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.