The Human Rights Act passed in 1998 works to protect the fundamental principles of freedom and human rights of all individuals under the authority of the United Kingdom. The act was passed by the UK parliament and includes, as subjects, all individuals whether they are British or foreign nationals. It was passed to provide the court of law and the government convenience of coming to decisions without reaching out to the international convention that covers this topic i.e. the European Convention on Humans Rights (ECHR). The Humans Rights Act is deeply intertwined with the Immigration procedure that the government follows. The Home Office, which is the official immigration office of the UK, has a responsibility to take into account the Humans Right Act when making its decisions as any immigration decision that does not coincide with the act will be reversed by a court of law. Usually, individuals that have immigration decisions taken against them by the Home Office follow the procedure of appeal to challenge the verdict in an Appeals Court.
A ‘visa’ is an official document given by the UK government to any individual that has been granted permission to enter the country. Several categories (such as visitor visa, t1 visa, tier 1 investor visa, tier entrepreneur visa, t1 graduate entrepreneur visa etc.) of visas exist and apply to individuals depending upon their purpose to come to the country. The government has passed several laws over the years regarding immigration that cover different visa categories. The Home Office, headed by the Secretary of State, grants or denies visas to applicants.
The Humans Rights Act covers several topics of human rights as already defined in international charters and conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Composed of several articles with each covering a different topic, the act works to protect the freedom and liberty of all people. A list of all the articles covered in the schedule 1 of the act is given as:
Articles 1-8 have been discussed in previously blogs to explain the nature and content of the Human Rights Act of 1998, and in this blog Articles 9-18 will be explain to elaborate how the Human Rights Act of 1998 safeguards the rights of every individual residing in UK.
Article 9 – Protects the right of every individual to choose his/her own religion and the protection of freedom of thought and conscience
Article 9 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 gives every person the right to practice any religion of his/her own choosing without any interference or forcefulness from any person or institution. The article also sets forth an obligation for the government to provide every right of freedom of thought and conscience to all people as they see fit, and to not interfere. This also implies that any person who wishes to change his/her religious beliefs, whether in private or in public, will have every right to do so and will not be restricted by law. This includes changing religious beliefs in worship, in practice, in its overall belief, in observance or in teaching.
Furthermore, all acts of freedom of religion are protected by Article 9 of the Human Rights Act only until they clash with the general safety of the public and prove to be a threat to the life of any person. The article is also not covered if the religious beliefs or acts of any individual or group prove to be against moral values and health of the general public of the United Kingdom. The article can also be deemed void if it clashes with the freedom and liberty of any other individual.
The article can come into effect if a person can provide significant evidence during any immigration case that their right to practice their religion freely might be in danger if they returned to their home country. The government would be forced to reconsider removing the individual in such a scenario as it would also violate letting the individual practice his/her freedom of thought and freedom of conscience. If even still in the scenario a decision is taken by the Home Office against the individual which he/she feels is wrong and unjust, the individual has every right to an appeal quoting this article if it applies to an appeals court. The case of Abu Qatada provides a significant example of an individual being granted permission to stay by an Appeals Court even after a decision was personally taken by then Home Secretary Theresa May.
Article 10 – Granting every individual the right for freedom of expression
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act sets forth the protection of all individuals to hold independent opinions without any barriers from the government or any other person or institution. It also grants the protection of public discourse without any interference or censorship of this discourse by any person or institution. This public discourse includes receiving information freely and delivering any kind of information to the public. Article 10 also implies to the press and the media, giving all media institutions the freedom to express them freely but will give states the authority to require a license to broadcast.
However, if the democratic state faces any threat as listed as follows, the exercise of such free speech can be restricted due to the state’s responsibility and duty over the public. The threats are listed as:
Article 11 – Gives all individuals the right of assembly and association
Article 11 of Schedule 1 of the Humans Right Act states that any group of people who wish to assemble and associate with one another have every right to do so without any interference from the state. It also grants all individuals in association the freedom to form unions that they form to protect mutual interests. This also includes unions formed in the interest of trade benefit.
As mentioned previously, certain conditions exist under which the state can exempt this article. These conditions are of the nature of threats and are similar to the previous article, and are listed as:
Furthermore, if the subject in question is in the armed forces, a member of the police force or in an administrative position of the government, Article 11 cannot be exercised whereas the case is to restrict lawfully the exercise of these rights. This means that this article cannot be exercised by this group of individuals under UK law (if they have been restricted to do so).
Article 12 – Protects the right of all individuals to marry and form a family
Article 12 gives all individuals the right to marry freely without any interference from the state, and also grants them ability to form a family. However, it does not apply to individuals who are not of legal age to marry.
Article 13 – Protection of the rights to an effective remedy
The state shall grant effective remedy to all individuals whose freedom and rights are violated, considering that these rights are stated in this act.
However, this does not apply to any individual who might have been acting in an official position.
Article 14 – Protection of the rights of all individuals to be free from all kinds of discrimination
Article 14 ensures that all individuals who are exercising their fundamental human rights as set forth in this act by the United Kingdom government shall be practiced freely and without any kind of discrimination from an official or unofficial institution. This includes:
Article 16 - Restricting all individuals who entered the country illegally or are foreign nationals from political activity
According to UK law, any individual who enters the country as a refugee seeking asylum, or any person who is a foreign national is termed an ‘alien’ in immigration terms.
Thus, any alien that entered the UK on any visa category (such as a work visa, visitor visa, tier 1 investor visa, tier entrepreneur visa, t1 graduate entrepreneur visa etc.) and is not currently a national of the country will also be restricted from political activity.
Even if it was mentioned before in Articles 10, 11 and 14 of the Humans Right Act of 1998, any kind of political activity will be restricted by the state if it is being carried out by an alien.
Article 17 - Restricting the abuse of rights
Article 17 imposes the restriction of this act being interpreted in any way by a person, a group or by the government whereas resulting in the abuse of rights of any person under the authority of the United Kingdom.
Article 18 – Limiting the use of restriction of rights
Article 18 protects all individuals from being abused on the basis of the exemptions that are mentioned in the previous articles of this act.