The Catholic Union has called on the Government to avoid “diluting the concept of human rights” as part of a consultation on the UK’s international policy.
In a submission to the Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the Catholic Union calls for a focus on upholding fundamental human rights at home and abroad.
The lobbying organisation warns that the international human rights system has been undermined in recent decades by a push to label ever more aspects of modern life as rights.
This is “eroding trust in the system and providing a fertile ground for attacks on ‘human rights’ by the media and populist politicians”, the Union says.
The Catholic Union’s submission to the Integrated Review calls on the Government to reject this trend and focus on promoting fundamental human rights, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights treaties.
In September 2020, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations called for strict interpretation of human rights treaties, reminding the UN that changing their content would negate the value of their ratification.
Earlier this year, the US State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights published a draft report which stated: ‘There is good reason to worry that the prodigious expansion of human rights law has weakened rather than strengthened the claim of human rights and left the most disadvantaged more vulnerable.’
Nigel Parker, Catholic Union Director, said: “Britain was one of the key architects of the international human rights system.
“Putting fundamental human rights into law, including the right to freedom of religious belief, has helped to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.
“But this system of international human rights is under threat.
“Activists are increasingly using rights claims as a way of advancing their campaigns and closing down debate. We are seeing this with a number of contentious issues in this country, for example in the debate about extending abortion legislation to Northern Ireland.
“This not only restricts legitimate debate, but risks undermining the concept of fundamental human rights.
“Our message to the Government is clear; don’t dilute the concept of human rights. Our international outlook should focus on upholding and protecting the international human rights system we helped to create, based on the concept of fundamental rights.
“Britain can and should continue to be a force for good in the world.”
Picture: General view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in Westminster, London. (Dominic Lipinski/PA).