Durham University Amnesty International (DUAI) has been campaigning across Durham to protect the Human Rights Act (HRA), which the current Conservative Government wants to repeal.
Milly Rainford, President of DUAI, told Palatinate: “We are trying to show that the Human Rights Act is a vital piece of legislation.
“Our Human Rights Act has had a problematic past in the UK as the general public has never fully embraced it, largely due to dubious media reports and politicians’ false representations of its effects.
“Certain right wing publications have created a narrative of the Human Rights Act as the Criminals’ and Terrorists’ Rights Act, an idea which we hope to address by highlighting the ways in which we can all turn to our fundamental rights for protection.”
Rainford also pointed to what the action of DUAI intended to achieve.
She said: “We are drawing attention to the rights we enjoy in this country, asking people not to take them for granted and remind them that they are worth fighting for.”
The group has organised several events as part of the campaign in recent weeks, such as writing letters to MPs and signing the ‘Save the Act’ petition (which can be found at www.savetheact.uk).
The nationwide petition is calling on the Justice Secretary Michael Gove to ‘Save the Human Rights Act” and has already attracted over 90,000 people.
The organisation behind the Save the Human Rights Act campaign said on their website that the Human Rights Act “places public authorities, like hospitals and social services, under an obligation to respect people’s family and private lives, including their relationships.”
Campaigning has also taken a number of creative forms; including a ‘wheel of misfortune’ game on the science site where many people got to take part by being randomly allocated an unfair punishment for their crimes.
On Valentine’s Day DUAI raised awareness of the importance of the right to marriage by leafleting and with a wedding day photo campaign.
The events are part of the collective action of a number of universities including the University of Sheffield, Edinburgh and Cambridge, who are collaborating by focusing on different rights, and spreading awareness across the UK.
The response from students, Rainford told Palatinate, has been “largely positive.”
She said: “Although there are certainly a lot of cases where people have been unaware what’s going on or don’t understand the issue, once it is explained they agree it’s a very important fight.
“More than anything, we really want people to engage in the discussion and learn more about it.”
Photograph: Frida Torkelsen