HUMAN RIGHTS in a nutshell1. Belong to everyone – they can’t be taken away from marginalised individuals2. Are about the relationship between the state and individuals3. Provide a floor, not a ceiling, of basic standards, below which the state must not fall and which it must protect or fulfil4. KEY PRINCIPLES: – Fairness – Respect – Equality – Dignity » In a democratic society
Overview• Human rights protection necessary for stability• Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities includes other rights than those named in the Charter e.g. UNCRC• You can’t ‘sue’ for a breach, but• There are many ways to parliam Rights make them work in Victoria Resp ent onsi liabilit biliti Local Statutes y es laws old When? ways How? of doing things
Case Study 1 – Darlene’s littleproblemWhat are the human rights issues inthis case?How might they be used to helpDarlene?
Darlene’s little problemDarlene is receiving unemployment benefits but keeps being cut off by Centrelink for non compliance. She had been sacked from her last job as an aged carer when the manager learned, through malicious gossip passed on by one of her co-employees, that Darlene was on a methadone program.Now she can’t find the resources to pay for her prescriptions; the doctor who had been her prescriber has retired and there’s no other provider within cooee of her home in rural Victoria, and it seems that the clinic she wanted to attend is probably going to close down.What human rights issues are involved in this issue? What steps could you take to help her deal with these issues?
Definitions in the CharterHuman Rights – Basically Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – Include any other right or freedom recognised by law – Belong to people, not corporations‘Public Authority’ must respect them, including: – Public servants and statutory officers, local government – Statutory entity with functions ‘of a public nature’ – Any entity with functions of a public nature when exercising them on behalf of the state or a public authority
HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTED BYTHE CHARTER ARE:•Recognition and equality before the law • As a person; •Protection of families and children • without discrimination; •Taking part in public life • To equal protection of the law; and •Cultural rights • special programs for disadvantaged are permitted •Property rights•Life•Protection from cruel, inhuman or •Right to liberty and security of persondegrading treatment•Forced work •Humane treatment when deprived of liberty•Freedom of expression •Children in the criminal process have•Peaceful assembly and freedom of special rightsassociation•Freedom of movement •Fair hearing for an accused criminal•Privacy and reputation •Rights in criminal proceedings•Freedom of thought, conscience, religionand belief •Right not to be tried or punished more than once •Retrospective criminal laws not allowed
How the Charter works• Parliament intends to establish a culture of respect for Human Rights in Victoria• Statements of compatibility must be made in parliament when laws are introduced• Parliament may override application of human rights in exceptional circumstances*• Existing laws must be interpreted to be compatible with the Charter wherever possible• All Public Authorities must act compatibly with the Charter• Supreme Court can declare statutes incompatible, direct minister to amend themParliament remains supreme in determining whether to pass or retain legislation incompatible with the Charter principles.
Who is bound by the charter?APPLIES TO ALL PUBLIC AUTHORITIES (and NGOs/private contractors performing public functions)IS INTENDED TO PROMOTE INDIVIDUALS’ RIGHT TO BE HEARDALMOST A ‘SUPER LAW’ – SO FAR AS POSSIBLE ALL LEGISLATION HAS TO BE INTERPRETED TO BE COMPATIBLE WITH THE CHARTER or a Declaration of incompatibility will be issued by THE Supreme CourtDEMOCRATIC DIALOGUE – proposed laws have to be measured against human rights protected by the Charter. NB – this is one way for NGOs to hold government to account
Overall• Charter protects individuals who are natural persons, not corporations• Duties on three branches of government – Parliament – compatibility statements (VEOHRC keeps a register) – Courts – interpret all Acts compatibly if possible – Executive – obligation to act compatibly, breach may be relied on in some legal proceedings• In addition to FOI, Privacy, Administrative law, Whistleblowers protection, Ombudsman, anti- discrimination laws etc. – and the rules of natural justice
THE CHARTER PROVIDES A human right canbe limited such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society based upon human dignity, equality and freedom and taking into account all relevant factors: • The nature of the right • The importance of the purpose of the limitation • The nature and extent of the limitation • The relationship between the limitation and its purpose • Any less restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose that the limitation seeks
Case Study 2: Stan’s detoxnightmareStan wants to get clean. He is a single father responsible for the care of 4 young children and they live in a rotten neighbourhood. He can’t get better rental accommodation either because agents claim the premises aren’t suitable for children, or because of his drug history and inability to provide referees.He lost his last job because of his dependency. He is about to lose his accommodation because of complaints by neighbours. Stan recently hurt himself and was treated in Emergency in the local hospital treatment but they refused to admit him, after treatment of his physical injuries, because he would need intensive detox in addition to regular medical care. He has made inquiries about detox facilities and found a number of possibilities, but none that will accommodate his need to take care of the children.What human rights issues are involved here? How could a Charter argument help Stan?
Some UK Cases R v Enfield London Robertson v Wakefield Borough Council 2002 Metropolitan Council 2002Local authority may have Public authorities musta duty to take positive ensure their decisionsteps to secure a disabled making processes takeperson’s physical integrity into account individuals’and dignity, even if it had human rights – they maythe right to evict him. be forced to do them all over again if they didn’t!
HOW NGOs CAN USE THECHARTER• Demanding protection of human dignity• Challenging discrimination• Promoting participation and HR sensitive decision-making• Challenging brutality• Taking positive steps to protect human rights• Using human rights principles where resources are an issue• Using human rights to challenge blanket policies• Protecting human rights in contracted-out services
Some UK cases where humanrights made a difference . . .DIGNITYStaff refused to clean the room of a man detained in a maximum security psychiatric centre in seclusion, where he repeatedly soiled himself, or move him saying he would just ‘do it again.’ The advocate challenged the treatment of the man on the basis of inhumane and degrading treatment, and his right to privacy, successfully.CHALLENGING DISCRIMINATIONA psychiatric hospital had a practice of sectioning asylum seekers who didn’t speak English without an interpreter. An NGO successfully challenged this practice on human rights ground: it was a breach of their right not to be discriminated against on the basis of language, and their right to liberty.PROMOTING PARTICIPATIONA disability support team had a policy of providing support to users who wanted to participate in social activities, but refused to provide a worker for a gay man who wanted to go to a gay pub. Heterosexual users regularly went to clubs and pubs of their choice. The man’s advocate challenged this on the basis of the man’s right to respect for his privacy and not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexuality
And . .Challenging brutalityA mentally ill young man placed in residential care for treatment was found bruised by his parents, who raised the issue with the managers and felt their concerns were dismissed, and their visiting rights were then removed. The parents challenged this on the basis of their son’s right not to be treated in an inhumane and degrading way and respect for family life.Positive steps to protect human rightsA social worker used human rights language to get accommodation for a woman and children fleeing from a violent prtner. She argued the housing authority had a positive duty to protect them from inhumane and degrading treatment and to protection of their lives.Another social worker managed to invoke a local authority’s positive obligation to protect a man suffering from panic disorder to get them to issue him with a bus pass, because he could not use public transport effectively – i.e. had to get off the bus every few minutes to calm down
And particularlyUsing human rights to get resourcesAn advocate successfully argued that an aged woman with mental illness and disturbed behaviour while in hospital for treatment should not be moved from the hospital and put into residential care against her wishes, on cost grounds, because she had the human right to privacy and choice, and so resources were found to support her care at home, where she wanted to live.A disabled woman’s payments were reduced to the point where she could no longer afford a personal assistant to help her with toileting, leading to aggravation of her serious kidney condition.Challenging blanket policiesThe education authority policy provided school transport for children with special needs who lived more than 3 miles from school and refused to provide it to a child living 2.8 miles away, unable to travel independently. This was successfully challenged on the basis of its being a disproportionate interference with the child’s right to private life
1. Adopt a Human Rights BasedApproach to services• If you are contracted/funded to provide a ‘government service’, you may be a ‘public authority’ yourself, for those functions, and need to comply with the Charter• Every employee in your service needs to understand Charter Rights and how they work• Breaches of charter considerations may mean public decisions or actions can be challenged as unlawfully made, and at the very least, should be remade• Can’t ‘sue’ over breach of a Charter right, but can lobby, argue and utilise existing laws and e.g. ombudsman, internal review processes, VCAT, anti discrimination laws,• VEOHRC can intervene in legal action, review (by invitation) a public authority, and must report on the first four years of the charter’s effectiveness
2. A HRBA to our work• Claim human rights as a tool for social change and in our own work• Use human rights arguments while having a central voice in policy debates• Use HRBAs in our own work and partnerships• Prioritise human rights in our work, raising awareness and capacity – how can issues we work on relate to human rights issues• Identifying human rights principles we already work to• Work in dialogue and partnerships to raise awareness and use of human rights tools to influence and challenge discriminatory assumptions about our clients
3. Use a checklist for action1. FRED. Does this situation raise human rights issues?2. What specific human rights are affected?3. Who owns those rights?4. Who or what is responsible for respecting and considering those rights?5. Has the responsible decision-maker considered those rights having regard to due process?6. If the human right has been limited by the decision-maker, is the limitationReasonable. – Demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society based upon human dignity, equality and freedom? and – did it take into account all relevant factors? • The nature of the right • The importance of the purpose of the limitation • The nature and extent of the limitation • The relationship between the limitation and its purpose • Any less restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose that the limitation seeks ?
4. Use Charter OpportunitiesSet the agenda – don’t accept decision makers’ preferences e.g. about allocation of resourcesIntegrate equal opportunity laws and human rights agendas to impact the largely untouched rights of drug and alcohol affected human beings and their familiesBuild partnerships and capacities of those working to tackle social exclusion and inequality to use HRBAs in their work
RESOURCESVictorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.auHuman Rights Law Centre website www.hrlrc.org.auThe Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities can be downloaded from this site or from www.austlii.edu.auBritish Institute of Human Rights report, The Human Rights Act – Changing Lives. Website www.bihr.org.uk