Humanist Society Scotland is committed to the defence and promotion of Human Rights and non-discrimination. Humanist thinking and the Enlightenment movements had a profound impact on the formation of the first declarations of Human Rights in the 18th Century.

We seek to promote Human Rights in Scotland, and beyond in partnership with other organisations and campaigners.

The Oxford Declaration of Freedom of Thought and Belief

The 2014 World Humanist Congress, gathered in Oxford, UK, on 8-10 August 2014, adopted the following declaration on freedom of thought and expression:

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The European Convention on Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights was adopted in Rome on 4 November 1950 by members of the Council of Europe. The Convention sets out the rights that all people living in each of the Council of Europe’s member states can expect to receive. Individuals can bring complaints of human rights violations to the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) in Strasbourg once all possibilities of appeal have been exhausted in the member state concerned. The United Kingdom helped to draft the Convention and was one of the first countries to ratify it in 1951. Human rights in the UK have therefore been governed by the Convention for over 60 years. The Human Rights Act 1998 (Human Rights Act) came into force in the United Kingdom in October 2000. It is composed of a series of sections that have the effect of codifying the protections in the Convention into UK law. As a result, the Convention rights are enforceable in UK courts. This means that individuals can file human rights cases in domestic courts, rather than having to go to the Court in Strasbourg to argue their case.

The Convention sets out the rights that all people living in each of the Council of Europe’s member states can expect to receive. These rights are:

  1. Right to life
  2. Prohibition of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
  3. Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
  4. Right to liberty and security
  5. Right to a fair trial
  6. No punishment without law
  7. Right to respect for family and private life
  8. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  9. Freedom of expression
  10. Freedom of assembly and association
  11. Right to marry
  12. Right to an effective remedy
  13. Prohibition of discrimination

Protocols to the Convention have added further rights such as: the protection of property; the right to education; the right to elections (all included in Protocol 1 signed in 1952) and the abolition of the death penalty (included in Protocol 6 signed in 1983).

UK Government Plans to repeal Human Rights Act

On 2 October 2014, the Conservative Party published proposals for reforming human rights laws in the UK which would mean that the case law of the Court would not be binding on the UK Supreme Court and that a new parliamentary procedure would be introduced to allow consideration of adverse Court judgments. The Queen’s Speech in May 2015 included a commitment to a British Bill of Rights which would replace the Human Rights Act, but did not include any details of the likely legislation. A consultation outlining more details is likely to be published in autumn 2015. If the United Kingdom Government decided to withdraw from the Court’s binding jurisdiction an issue could arise as to whether it could also be required to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

International Contraventions of Human Rights – Bangladeshi Bloggers

In the last two years at least 5 bloggers identifying as atheist, rationalist and humanist have been murdered in Bangladesh. Humanist organisations around the world have commented on the poor response from the Bangladeshi Government and officials to protect humanists there from persecution. On August 19th HSS joined a global list of organisations calling on the Bangladeshi Government to:

  • ensure the safety and security of those individuals whose lives are threatened by Islamist extremists, including the witnesses and family members
  • instruct the police to find the killers, not to harass or blame the victims
  • disassociate yourself publicly from those who call for death penalties against non-religious Bangladeshis, and ensure using your executive authority that individuals within your party membership maintain the same standard of respect for freedom of conscience and expression
  • work decisively for legal reform to repeal Section 295A of the Penal Code and section 57 of the ICT Act of 2006, in order to bring the legal system of Bangladesh in line with the spirit and values of freedom of expression and ‘of conscience’ as enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh, and as per obligations under the international human rights instruments to which Bangladesh is party.

European Refugees

On 9th September 2015, the European Humanist Federation released the following statement in relation to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe:

The European Humanist Federation (EHF) calls on EU leaders to implement a coordinated and human rights based response to welcome refugees and to initiate sanctions against Member States violating EU values.

As many civil society organisations, the European Humanist Federation (EHF) is highly concerned by the lack of appropriate response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the numbers of refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe. 

We do not underestimate the practical difficulties but the EU needs a long-term vision on asylum and migration. The EU current policy has not only proved inefficient but also dangerous and costly in term of human lives: by blocking the legal ways to access Europe, the EU has reinforced the position of smugglers instead of weakening it. Europe must open safe access to its territory to all people claiming for protection.

The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union has convened an extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council on 14 September 2015 in Brussels. The EHF takes this opportunity to call on JHA ministers and European leaders to:

  • Urgently open legal and safe access for refugees and migrants to Europe and fully respect the principle of non-refoulement laid down in the 1951 Geneva Convention
  • Organise a real European asylum and migration system based on solidarity between Member States to replace the inefficient Dublin Regulation
  • Make sure that refugees and migrants arriving to Europe are treated in a decent way and respect their fundamental rights to life health, to a private life and to circulate freely
  • Help migrants integrate into society in the host countries and tackle populist and inaccurate anti-immigration discourses
  • Make EU development aid dependant on human rights and conflict resolution instead of making it dependant on border controls and readmission agreements
  • Initiate an Article 7 TEU proceeding against Hungary and any other country like Cyprus and Slovakia that do not full respect European values as laid down in the treaties.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission promotes and protects human rights for everyone in Scotland. It is an independent public body, accountable to the people of Scotland through the Scottish Parliament.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland is working to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality, protect and promote human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society.

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Why become a member of Scotland's Humanist charity?

We are a democratic membership charity. Join us today to get involved in our campaigns to make Scotland a more secular, rational and socially just country.

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Why should I get involved?

We are a membership charity, with over 14,000 members from Stornoway to Stranraer. Get involved today to help make Scotland a more secular, rational and socially just country.

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What is Humanism?

Humanists are people who share common values, such as science and rational enquiry, and who seek to live ethical lives based on reason and compassion.

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