2 2 What s in this pack? Sections Pages Important Notes Page 3 What s it all about? Page 4 Why the Human Rights Act? Page 6 Who we are and what we do Page 9 What are human rights? Page 14 Where did human rights come from?: A short history of Human Rights Page 20 What is the Human Rights Act? Page 27 Know Your HRA: Fact & Fiction Page 47 Human Rights Illustrated Page 53
3 3 Important Note Please Read!!!! Not all the information in this pack will be suitable for all age groups. It may raise some difficult and complex issues. Liberty asks teachers and parents to please read ALL the information carefully before discussing or passing any of the information to children. Thank you!
4 4 What s It All About?
5 5 What is Liberty s Human Rights Resource Pack? A general resource for parents and teachers designed to inspire and inform children about human rights and the Human Rights Act. It aims to provide teachers with a powerful and engaging human rights resource for their classroom and a broad platform for young people to learn about human rights, the Human Rights Act and how it works to safeguard the rights of children, young people and adults alike. If you have any questions, please contact us at
6 6 Why the Human Rights Act? The Human Rights Act protects the rights of everyone in the UK
7 7 Why the Human Rights Act? The Human Rights Act protects the rights of everyone in the UK, yet most people don t really know what it is. Research shows that although most people think human rights are important and should be protected, many are unsure what their rights are and know very little about the Human Rights Act, the law that outlines and protects them. In a study by the Ministry of Justice in 2005, 84% of people when asked agreed it was important to have a law which deals with human rights in Britain, but 77% said that they don t know much about the Human Rights Act. More recently, Liberty polling conducted by ComRes shows mass support (96%) for a law that protects rights and freedoms in Britain. Yet less than a tenth of respondents (9%) remember ever having received or seen information from the Government explaining the Human Rights Act.
8 8 Why the Human Rights Act? We the Human Rights Act because It protects the human rights of everyone in the UK. It makes sure that our Government protects us all equally no matter where we re from or whether we are young, old, rich or poor. It says that by law, public organisations (including the Government, the police and local councils) must treat everyone with fairness, dignity and respect. And we think that since it protects all our rights and this is so important, everybody should know about it.
9 9 Who we are Who are Liberty and what do we do?
10 10 Who we are Liberty is the UK's oldest human rights and civil liberties organisation. Since 1934, we have been working to protect civil liberties and promote human rights for everyone in the UK. We campaign on behalf of everyone on a broad range of human rights issues privacy, no torture, equal treatment, the rights of young people and peaceful protest. Our mission is to defend and protect the rights and freedoms of EVERYONE in our society.
11 11 Who we are Liberty is a group of people who believe that ALL human beings have rights and have come together to work to protect those rights for everyone in the UK. We believe that... EVERYONE should be treated equally - young, old, rich or poor and no matter what colour your skin is, what language you speak or what religion you may or may not believe in. EVERYONE has the right to be treated fairly and with respect.
12 12 What we do We promote the values of individual human dignity, equal treatment and fairness as the foundations of a democratic society. We work to try to help people understand what their human rights are and to think about why they are so important. We try to help people whose rights have been neglected or forgotten. And we give information and advice to lots of people, including those who decide the laws and rules we all live by, like the Government and the police.
13 13 How? We seek to protect and promote respect and understanding for civil liberties and human rights by Campaigning through the media. Raising awareness in the wider community Lobbying Parliament. Speaking out against laws that undermine civil liberties and human rights and working with politicians to amend them Challenging laws. Taking test cases to English courts and to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Providing free advice. To members of the public, voluntary sector organisations and lawyers through specialist advice lines and our website,
14 14 What are human rights? Human rights are basic rights and freedoms that belong to every member of the human family.
15 15 What are human rights? Human rights are basic rights and freedoms that belong to every member of the human family regardless of where you come from, or whether you are male or female, rich or poor, young or old. They include things such as the right to not to be treated as a slave, the freedom to believe what you like, to think what you like and express your opinions. The right not be locked-up without a very good reason (like you ve committed a crime) and the opportunity to prove you are innocent through a fair trial. Some rights, like freedom from slavery, can never be taken away, some have to be balanced with the rights of others but they are all equally important.
16 16 Human rights are Universal. They apply to all people simply on the basis of being human. Human rights belong to every member of the human family regardless of sex, race, nationality, socio-economic group, political opinion, sexual orientation or any other status.
17 17 Human rights are Inalienable. They cannot be taken away simply because we do not like the person seeking to exercise their rights. They can only be limited in certain tightly defined circumstances, and some rights, such as the prohibition on torture and slavery, can never be limited.
18 18 Human rights are Indivisible. You cannot pick and choose which rights you want to honour. Many rights depend on each other to be meaningful the right to fair trial would be meaningless without the prohibition on discrimination, and the right to free speech goes hand in hand with the right to assemble peacefully.
19 19 Human rights are Owed by the State to the people. This means public bodies like the Government, police and local councils must respect your human rights. It also means that the Government has to ensure that there are laws in place so that other people respect your human rights too. They must protect you from the actions of others who might want to do you harm and make sure that their actions do not lead to harm or death.
20 20 Where did human rights come from? A short history of human rights
21 21 Where did human rights come from? The idea that all human beings are born with certain rights is hundreds of years old. In Britain, the story of human rights begins over 800 years ago when people had the idea that if someone was accused of something, they should have the chance to prove they didn t do it before they were punished or sent to prison. This was the idea of fair trial a very important right that, as part of the Human Rights Act, we now all share.
22 22 The story of human rights A human rights timeline Another early milestone in the history of human rights in the UK is the Magna Carta. This was an English Charter which contained the writ of habeas corpus. For the first time, this allowed people to appeal against being sent to prison without a trial The earliest ancestor of contemporary human rights protection was the Assize of Clarendon, passed by Henry II in A precursor to trial by jury, the Assize paved the way for the abolition of trial by combat and trial by ordeal.
23 23 The story of human rights A human rights timeline Next came one of the most important documents in the political history of Britain: the Bill of Rights. This Act of Parliament included: the freedom to petition the Monarch (the start of protest rights); freedom from cruel and unusual punishments (like the ban on torture contained in our Human Rights Act) and freedom from being fined without trial In the autumn of 1647 a group of English political activists called the Levellers, produced An Agreement of the People, which called for freedom of conscience in matters of religion, freedom from conscription and asked that laws apply equally to everyone: there must be no discrimination on grounds of tenure, estate, charter, degree, birth or place.
24 24 The story of human rights A human rights timeline Another important law in the history of human rights was passed, the Slavery Abolition Act, which outlawed the slave trade throughout the British Empire At the end of World War I the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to all women over 30. Shortly afterwards women were also allowed to stand for Parliament, although it took another decade for the vote to be extended to all women The Reform Act allowed more people to vote than ever before. It still excluded women and working class men, but it was a landmark on the road towards everyone having the right to vote. Liberty was founded, as the National Council for Civil Liberties, and more than 75 years later we re still going strong.
25 25 The story of human rights A human rights timeline In 1950 Britain and other European countries came together to form the Council of Europe. Europe was devastated by the Second World War. The Council wanted to create laws that would protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone in Europe and ensure that horrors like the Holocaust could never happen again. British lawyers helped to develop the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The UK signed up to the Convention in After the Second World War, people realised that to just know fundamental rights should be respected was not enough. Without some kind of formal protection these rights could still be ignored and abused. The result was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most important agreements in the history of human rights.
26 26 The story of human rights A human rights timeline As part of the Sexual Offences Act male homosexuality finally stops being illegal in the UK and you can no longer be sent to prison just for being gay The Human Rights Act becomes part of British law and becomes one of the most important events in British political history and the story of human rights & 1976 The Sex Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act make it illegal to discriminate against anyone on grounds of their gender or ethnicity.
27 27 What is the Human Rights Act? The Human Rights Act is made up of 16 rights that we all share.
28 28 What is the Human Rights Act? The Human Rights Act is made up of 16 rights that we all share. They come from the European Convention on Human Rights and each one is called an Article. They are about big issues like life and death. But they are also about everyday things like your beliefs and what you can say and do.
29 29 How does it work for you? The Human Rights Act protects your rights by UK law When the Human Rights Act was introduced to Britain in 1998 it became law in this country. Now all the people who look after the laws in the UK like the government, the courts and the police must respect and look after your rights. It is against the law for them to ignore your rights, but sometimes there may be another law (to prevent harm to others, for example) which means they have to act differently. If you have a problem regarding your human rights being ignored, this can now be heard first in a UK court rather than having to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. But if you need to, you can also still take your case to the ECHR.
30 30 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The right to life Protects your life. Makes it illegal for someone to take your life. Means the Police are responsible for protecting your life if they know it might be in danger. Requires everyone to do all they can to prevent unnecessary accidents. And if you die in suspicious circumstances, this must be investigated.
31 31 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment Says that you should never be deliberately hurt or treated badly, no matter what the situation.
32 32 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? Protection against slavery and forced labour Nobody can treat you like a slave or force you to do certain kinds of work.
33 33 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The right to liberty and freedom You have the right to be free and the state can only imprison you with very good reason for example, if you are convicted of a crime.
34 34 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The right to a fair trial Means that you are always innocent until proven guilty and that if accused of a crime, you have the right to hear the evidence against you in a court of law.
35 35 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? No punishment without law Means that you can t be found guilty of a crime if it wasn t against the law at the time it was committed. And if you are convicted of a crime and punished, the punishment for that crime cannot then later be extended, even if the law changes.
36 36 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? Respect for privacy and family life Nobody can secretly watch what you are doing, read your private letters or s, or listen to your phonecalls without a very good reason for example, like stopping a crime.
37 37 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The right to marry As long as you are legally old enough, you have the right to marry who you like and raise a family.
38 38 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? Freedom of thought, religion and belief You have the right to your own beliefs and to practise your religion or beliefs. Nobody can make you believe in something and nobody can tell you what to believe in.
39 39 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? Free speech and peaceful protest You have a right to speak freely and join with others peacefully to express your views.
40 40 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? No discrimination Everyone s rights are equal. You should not be treated unfairly because of your gender, race, beliefs, sexuality, religion, age or anything else.
41 41 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? Protection of property The things that you own belong to you. Public organisations cannot take them away or tell you how to use them, without a very good reason.
42 42 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The right to an education All children and young people have the right to go to school and have an education.
43 43 What rights does the Human Rights Act protect? The right to free and fair elections. You have the right to vote for your own government and to make up your own mind who to vote for. Nobody can make you vote a particular way. You must be allowed to vote in private and you don t have to tell anyone who you voted for.
44 44 How does the Human Rights Act protect me? The Human Rights Act protects everyone equally. Whilst your rights are important, they are not more important than anyone else s. The Human Rights Act protects your right to believe what you want, to have your own opinions and to express those opinions, but it also says that you must respect other people s. That your rights must be respected, but you must also respect other people s. And where there is conflict, there must always be a balance between your rights and everyone else s.
45 45 How does it protect everyone? The Human Rights Act protects everyone equally. By law, the police and the Government must respect your rights, but they must also protect everyone else s You cannot use your rights to commit a crime or to hurt or endanger the lives of others, because they have the same rights as you - like the right to life and protection of property. The Human Rights Act says that if you are accused of a crime, you must be told the reasons why and given a fair chance to prove that you are innocent but that if there is a good reason (like you are proven guilty of a crime, or for the safety of others) then your rights can be limited (like your freedom).
46 46 How does it protect everyone? The Human Rights Act protects everyone equally. The rights in the Human Rights Act are the law, they apply to everyone and affect all other laws. Public organisations like the government, the police and councils must protect your rights and the Government must also think about your rights when they are creating new laws. Because everyone has rights, sometimes there can be complicated situations where several people s rights have to be considered and this can cause arguments about whose rights are more important. When this happens, The Human Rights Act says that the Government and sometimes the courts must think carefully about all the rights involved and decide what is the best thing to do.
47 47 Know your HRA! Separating fact from fiction: Top 5 Myths about the Human Rights Act
48 48 Fact & Fiction Top 5 Myths about the Human Rights Act 1. "People now have a human right to anything" As we have seen, The Human Rights Act doesn t protect an endless catalogue of rights. It only protects 16 well-established fundamental rights and freedoms, like the right to life and fair trial. There is a great deal of misinformation about human rights laws, and in fact many of the most controversial cases that appear in the papers are actually dismissed by the courts.
49 49 Fact & Fiction Top 5 Myths about the Human Rights Act 2. "Human rights law only protects criminals and terrorists it does nothing for victims" The Human Rights Act protects the rights of everyone and actually requires the State to take practical steps to protect people whose rights (like the right to life and security) are threatened by others. Rights can be limited in the interest of public safety, in order to protect national security or to prevent an offence being committed. The Act specifically states that those suspected of or convicted of crimes can be deprived of their liberty.
50 50 Fact & Fiction Top 5 Myths about the Human Rights Act 3. "Human rights law does nothing for ordinary people, it s not relevant if you live in the UK Human rights aren t just for people in other countries, you have them too. They took a long time to get and they still need protecting. The Human Rights Act is a UK law. It protects everyone s human rights in the UK; young and old, rich and poor, yours and mine. Anybody s privacy can be invaded, anybody can be wrongly accused of a crime, and anyone can be discriminated against for no good reason whether it s how old they are, how they look or what they believe. Hopefully this won t happen to you but if it did, you might find you need to rely on the Human Rights Act to help you.
51 51 Fact & Fiction Top 5 Myths about the Human Rights Act 4. The UK should just ignore judgments from the European Court of Human Rights which it doesn t agree with You and I can t choose what laws we stick to, and neither can countries. The purpose of international human rights law is to make sure that everyone sticks to the agreement they signed to protect the rights of all the people in their country. This can sometimes cause inconvenience and irritation for governments, but if one member of the group is allowed to pick and choose which human rights judgments to respect then all members can do the same. If that was the case, many of the most significant advances for liberty, equality and democracy in Europe that have been made since the Second World War would never have happened.
52 52 Fact & Fiction Top 5 Myths about the Human Rights Act 5. Human rights have been imposed on us by Europe" British lawyers helped to write the Human Rights Act. British politicians chose to make it the law in the UK. It is based on the European Convention on Human Rights, which has nothing to do with the EU, but was written by the Council of Europe a group of countries who came together after the Second World War to make sure nothing as terrible ever happened again. The rights and freedoms like fair trial are great British traditions which began long before the Human Rights Act was written, but now the Human Rights Act protects these rights in law. Before the Human Rights Act you would have had to go to a court outside the UK if your rights had been abused. Because of the Human Rights Act, your case can now be heard at home, in a UK court.
53 53 Human Rights Illustrated Some pictures to spur your imagination
54 54 Write Human Rights Picture Library
55 55 Write Human Rights Picture Library
56 56 Write Human Rights Picture Library
57 57 Write Human Rights Picture Library
58 58 Write Human Rights Picture Library
59 59 Write Human Rights Picture Library
60 60 Write Human Rights Picture Library
61 61 Write Human Rights Picture Library
62 62 Write Human Rights Picture Library
63 63 Write Human Rights Picture Library
64 64 Write Human Rights Picture Library
65 65 Write Human Rights Picture Library
66 66 Write Human Rights Picture Library
67 67 More information can be found on the Common Values in the Classroom section of our website. Watch our short film, download all the latest info, posters and more from the If you have any further questions, please contact us at
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