Human rights and legal aspects of activism

Articles and publications:

Statement by UN Special rapporteur, Michael Forst, 12th April 2024 explaining how the UK is a signatory to the Aarhus Convention and so has binding obligations to protect environmental protestors: those who exercise their rights in conformity with this Convention shall not be penalised, persecuted or harassed in any way. His role is to investigate complaints related to this. He describes how has received many concerning complaints of a crackdown on environmental defenders in many different countries but “I must say i have not seen a situation as concerning as in the UK”. This, he says, includes sanctions placed on UK medical doctors who risk losing their licence simply for participating in peaceful environmental protest. “Protests are not a threat to a democracy, they are a sign of its healthy functioning”

Sandra Laville, 2024. UN expert condemns UK crackdown on environmental protest. This Guardian article discusses UN special rapporteur on Environmental Defenders Michel Forst’s visit to the UK and his serious concerns about ‘draconian new laws’, the treatment of peaceful protestors (including the “toxic” discourse in the media and among politicians about climate protesters) and the ‘chilling impact on fundamental freedoms’ The Guardian, 23rd January 2024

Michel Forst, 2024. Visit to London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 10-12 January 2024 Forst highlights “extremely worrying information I received… …regarding the increasingly severe crackdowns on environmental defenders in the United Kingdom, including in relation to the exercise of the right to peaceful protest.” He states “We are in the midst of a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Environmental defenders are acting for the benefit of us all. It is therefore imperative that we ensure that they are protected.” Aarhus_SR_Env_Defenders_statement

Defend our Juries. This website explains how the government is undermining our centuries-old rights to a fair trial by jury, particulalry with regard to climate activists

Richard Vogler, 2023. We are All Trudi Warner! Promoting the Rights of Jurors in the Twenty First Century. A useful article by a Professor of Comparative Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, explaining the current threats to “the fundamental principles of common law justice, which have served us so well for so long”. The Barrister Sept 2023

Paul Rogers, 2022. UK activists keep being acquitted by juries. What does that mean for protest? This 2022 article discusses examples of juries aquitting activists, on the basis that they are breaking the law to prevent a far greater crime and how these acquittals have aroused strong opposition, particularly from politicians and the right-wing press. Open Democracy, January 2022

Dominic Grieve, 2012. In defence of the jury trial. This 2012 speech, by our then Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, discussed the history and importance of trial juries as an “essential element of the justice system of England and Wales”. The speech published by the then Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. Speech at the Politeia forum

Hewson B, 2000. Why the human rights act matters to doctors. This BMJ editorial, written in 2000, just after The Human Rights Act, adopted European countries as part of a collective response to the horrors of the second world war, came into full force in UK. It explains how judges will be obliged to interpret all laws consistently with human rights (section 3) or declare the law in question to be incompatible with human rights (section 4). However judges do not, unlike in other countries, have the power to strike down acts of parliament. BMJ 2000;321:780