Stand up for human rights!June 24, 2016
The electorates of England and Wales have voted to take the UK out of the European Union.
Alienated by years of austerity and the routine violation of their social and economic rights, the majority in those countries voted Leave in the context of a campaign that scapegoated immigrants for all their problems.
Those voices leading the Leave campaign majored not on democratic or socio-economic deficits in the EU project but rather on nationalistic sentiment, xenophobia and thinly veiled racism. This result will embolden them and place them in the ascendency. It is no surprise to see Donald Trump and far right parties across Europe welcoming the referendum result.
We may expect a renewed drive to cut us off from international human rights standards, especially through the repeal of the Human Rights Act. We may expect racism in its many forms, including sectarianism here, to become more shameless and attempts to divide people to become more open.
However, this vote is not the end of the game.
There is a lot to play for in the negotiations with the EU to come and some clear dangers can be avoided. We must hold onto the Human Rights Act, which is an intrinsic part of our peace settlement and emanates from the Council of Europe and not the EU. We must ensure that the standards in progressive laws and directives originally coming from the EU in areas like anti-discrimination and workers rights are not diminished. We should look for solidarity from our European colleagues in negotiating a settlement that protects human rights, including social, economic, cultural and environmental rights.
Human rights are the polar opposite to racism. They are universal, belonging to all human beings and are based upon the inviolable dignity of the human person. In what comes, including the possible break-up of the United Kingdom, we should use human rights as the standard, as the measure against which we judge any proposal or initiative. CAJ will play its part by analysing developments and proposing solutions that advance human rights. There is a great deal of work to be done.
For all those concerned about the welfare of people and solidarity amongst human beings, this Leave decision is a disappointment and a discouragement. The appropriate response is to do what we have been doing, only more so.