Telling the stories of those whose rights have been affected during the pandemic
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Marc Bloomfield
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed to many what was already obvious to plenty: that after 40 years of privatisation and deregulation and following 10 years of austerity, the UK is a country in which financial interests too often override those of our most vulnerable citizens.
We are in a time of upheaval, in which nothing is certain. Britain is leaving the EU and over the next five years, the Conservative party will likely succeed in its intention to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. In autocratic fervour, it is also planning to ‘reform’ (read: restrict) a citizen’s ability to challenge the lawfulness of its own decisions.
This should concern us all: in the wake of the pandemic, human rights and the rule of law are more important than ever. Amidst the new pressures created by this crisis, the rights of minorities are easily left behind.
Meanwhile, across the globe, we have seen authoritarian governments using the virus as a cover for cracking down on the freedoms of their citizens and stripping away state support.
Crises provide those with power the opportunity to do such things, and a natural response to this can be a tacit acceptance that extreme measures are necessary in extraordinary times. Human rights legislation was meant to guard against this, to provide a robust defence against a slide into autocracy.
openJustice recently launched a new series – The Unlawful State: Stories from a Pandemic – in which we investigate and report on the stories of people whose voices we do not normally hear but whose rights have been undermined in the wake of the pandemic.
In our previous series, The Unlawful State, we discovered that even before the COVID-19 crisis, the UK government was frequently engaging in unlawful activity, failing again and again to uphold the picture of a civilised society that is painted in legislation. In the exercise of power and the pursuit of profit, the law is trampled on.
The good news is that following the onset of the pandemic, civil society quickly galvanised. From successful legal action that resulted in disadvantaged children receiving free laptops or tablets so that they could partake in virtual learning, to the self-organising mutual aid groups that have connected millions of locals across the country, people have come together, and helped and learned from one another.
Alongside the voices of those who are disproportionately suffering during this pandemic, our new series will profile inspiring stories of how the law is being used by civil society.
If you would like to share a story with us, please contact: charlotte.threipland@opendemocracy.net.

About the author(s)

Description: Charlotte Threipland - author
Charlotte Threipland is a lawyer, researcher and writer and editor of openJustice.
Description: Oscar Rickett - author
Oscar Rickett is a journalist at openJustice and writes for a range of other publications including the Guardian and Vice.