Monday, 22 March 2010

human rights review tribunal appointments

the human rights commission is a body that is close to my heart. this is the organisation that enforces my daughters' rights to wear hijab with their school uniform, along with long skirts or trousers underneath the skirt. this is the organisation that gives me the strength to insist that my girls can play any sport they like in full trackpants and hijab. this is the organisation that stands between me and a legal headscarf ban such as the ones they have in france and turkey.

so it pains me to hear that the human rights review tribunal, which is part of the process of enforcing human rights in this country, has had people appointed to it without due process. I/S first highlighted the issue:

Firstly, it confirms that the cronies were appointed without any interview or formal process. They were "well known to Ministers" who were "satisfied as to their suitability for appointment". And that, apparently, was the end of the matter. There was no examination of qualifications beyond a standardised curriculum vitae form, and certainly no formal test of their ability to contribute meaningfully to the work of the Tribunal as recommended by its chair. They were "well known to Ministers", and so they were in. Whether this is a suitable appointments process for a quasi-constitutional body with power to overturn legislation such as the HRRT is left as an exercise for the reader.

To add insult to injury, the nomination of these cronies displaced more qualified candidates. Power had initially proposed the reappointment of eight existing, experienced members of the HRRT. Four of them were dumped to make room for these cronies. These included all three legal practitioners, who the chair had specifically requested be retained to provide a core of legal capability "to ensure continuity in the decision-making process of the Tribunal". Faced with a choice between an effective human rights body, and jobs for their mates, National chose the latter.

it has also been highlighted by tumeke, who highlights the fact that this issue has failed to hit the news headlines. at all.

for me it's personal. these are the people who will make a decision if i take a case like this to it (and mediation has failed):

Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), one of two Muslims in Congress, reported that protesters chanted "the N-word, the N-word, 15 times" as he left the Cannon House Office Building with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a leader of the civil rights movement. Protesters also spat on and shouted bigoted slurs at other lawmakers.

it bothers me that there would be people making a decision who don't have the legal expertise to support them, and who don't think human rights are particularly important. it bothers me that these appointments have happened under the radar, without any media scrutiny at all. actually, it doesn't just bother me. it makes me feel less safe.

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