UK Ambassador Simon Manley’s closing statement during 4th Universal Periodic Review of the UK’s human rights record – Adoption of the Working Group’s Report.

Simon Manley CMG

Thank you Madam Vice-President,

I would like to thank all those – whether member states or members of civil society – who have spoken in today’s session, and who have engaged constructively with the UK’s Universal Periodic Review, throughout this cycle.

Let me thank in particular the UK’s active civil society and National Human Rights Institutions, some of which are here today in this hall, for their contributions throughout this process. The UK Government appreciates the vital role that these organisations play in upholding and promoting human rights standards in the UK, and we look forward to further engagement with them on the UPR and human rights matters more broadly, in the future.

The UK Government remains fully committed to the UPR mechanism, and to the protection and promotion of human rights both domestically and internationally. We continue to encourage all States to participate openly, willingly, and honestly in their reviews – as the UK has done – which provides an invaluable process through which States can share their experience in implementing a variety of policies, tackling similar problems, and learning from each other.

During both our Review session in November, and at this meeting today, the UK has listened with interest to the views and recommendations expressed by fellow Member States on a range of human rights issues. So let me take this opportunity, Madam Vice-Chair, to respond to a number of these.

In November, the UK received a number of recommendations on the impacts of the Bill of Rights Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 22 June last year and which will replace the Human Rights Act. As we have stated in our response, the Bill will continue to safeguard the rights contained in the Human Rights Act, and it won’t weaken human rights protections. The Bill of Rights will allow the UK to remain a State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights, while fully availing ourselves of the margin of appreciation doctrine.

The UK’s approach to international treaties was also raised. As we have advised in our response, the UK has ratified most of the major international human rights treaties. We will consider ratification of additional human rights treaties on a case-by-case basis.

The UK Government believes that effective domestic laws already exist, under which individuals may seek enforceable remedies in the courts if their rights have indeed been breached.

The UN human rights treaties do not require incorporation by State Parties into domestic law, and the UK has not done so. We are confident however that the UK is in full compliance with its UN treaty obligations.

Other issues raised in November and today include tackling racial disparities, immigration and the age of criminal responsibility.

At our Review Meeting, British Justice Minister Freer set out the various policies and legislation in place across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to address racism and racial disparities; and the UK has been consistent in its condemnation of any kind of discrimination. On immigration, the UK is committed to upholding its obligations under international law, including the Refugee Convention and applicable human rights conventions.

On the age of criminal responsibility, the UK Government’s position has not changed. Setting the age of criminal responsibility at 10 for England and Wales provides appropriate flexibility in dealing with children who offend, allowing for early intervention in a child’s life, with the aim of preventing subsequent offending.

It is also right that Scotland has the autonomy to decide upon the age of criminal responsibility, as part of its competence under the UK’s devolution settlement.

There were a number of comments made about the Illegal Migration Bill. There is an urgent humanitarian need to stop small boat crossings: over 45,000 people illegally crossed the English Channel in small boats last year. The UK Government has introduced ambitious legislation – the Illegal Migration Bill – to prevent further loss of life by disrupting the business model of people smuggling networks, which put lives at risk through dangerous and illegal crossings. This is, of course, an international problem with a record 100 million people displaced across the world. It is a problem with which many countries are trying to grapple and the UK is no different to that. We are committed to engaging with our international partners to address these challenges alongside our domestic legislation. The UK, as you will know, has a long and proud tradition of ensuring rights and liberties, to protecting them domestically, and to fulfilling our international human rights obligations. The UK is committed to its membership of the Council of Europe and to its obligations under international law, including the Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Convention against Trafficking. We are also doing more to help people at risk of war and persecution by setting up safe and legal routes, as we have done for Syria, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine. Since 2015, the UK has offered places of safety to nearly 480,000 people.

Madam Vice-President,

In concluding my closing statement, let me underline how pleased we are that the UK has increased the number of recommendations it can support since its previous review. It is, nevertheless, important to remember that these numbers do not tell the whole story. We would encourage those genuinely interested to read our Annex to the Report of the Working Group for further information, and we look forward to expanding on our position later in this UPR cycle.

Finally Madam President,

Let me express our sincere gratitude to our UPR Troika – Cote D’Ivoire, to the Republic of Korea and to Lithuania – as well as to the UPR Secretariat, for their diligence in preparing the Report of the Working Group on the UK’s 4th Universal Periodic Review, and for making every effort to ensuring a smooth review process.

We look forward to meeting again for the UK’s next review in the 5th cycle.

Thank you, Madam Vice-President.

Published 27 March 2023