On 4 May 2017 the United Kingdom was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Every 5 years the United Nations (UN) member states’ human rights records are reviewed during the UPR, a state-driven process, where other states make recommendations to a state under review.
The Minister of Justice of the UK and Ireland, Oliver Heald, presented the state report emphasising that the UK voted for Brexit and is planning to leave the EU but will not to turn away from any other of its partners. He reiterated that there are no plans to withdraw from the European Court, the proposed Bill of Rights will continue to protect human rights in the future and there are no plans to narrow the protection of human rights in the country. He stated that the UK’s priorities for the 3rd cycle UPR recommendations will be on eradicating modern slavery and violence against women.
Prior to the review DSN-UK and International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) made a joint submission to the UPR, outlining the need to outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK and the government’s failure to implement the legislation as agreed by Parliament. DSN-UK and IDSN also distributed DSN-UK recommendations to a number of Geneva based permanent missions, its network members and placed them in the public domain.
IDSN facilitated DSN-UK’s participation in the UK UPR Pre-session, organised by UPR Info in Geneva in April 2017, aiming to assist NGOs with lobbying efforts before the review. DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, attended the UPR Info training, the UK UPR Pre-session and lobbied Geneva based permanent missions encouraging them to recommend to the UK to outlaw caste-based discrimination. Meena met with representatives of Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, USA, Germany and Czech Republic permanent missions.
However, to our disappointment not one state mentioned the situation of Dalits or caste-based discrimination in the UK during the review. The majority of the recommendations were directed at the proposed Bill of Rights, remaining with the European Court, indefinite detention of asylum seekers, human trafficking, violence against children, violence against women, child poverty, gender equality, migrants’ rights, ethnic minorities, travellers and Roma community, abortion policies in the Northern Ireland and a rise of hate crime post Brexit vote in June last year.
Nonetheless, the Netherlands recommended to the UK to “Ensure the accessibility of appropriate legal aid to safeguard access to justice for all, particularly for the most marginalized groups in society”. DSN-UK believes it should include an adoption of a secondary legislation outlawing caste-based discrimination and providing access to justice for victims of caste discrimination.
Additionally, India was under review on the same day. It received 13 targeted recommendations addressing the situation of Dalits, scheduled castes and tribes, and caste based discrimination practices in the country.
Video recording of the UK review available here, and of India here.