Robbie de Santos, Director of Communications and External Affairs (he/him) at Stonewall, said: “Britain’s LGBTQ+ civil society and human rights organisations have expressed their concern about the political independence of the EHRC and its approach to trans people’s rights for some time. While we now await the full report from the Special Committee on Accreditation at the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, we welcome the Special Review and we will continue to support it with evidence.
“At its periodic review in October 2022, the EHRC received a number of clear recommendations regarding the independence and effectiveness of its work in respect of the rights of LGBTI people, and their cooperation with LGBTI organisations. Within months of receiving these recommendations, they were already demonstrating that they were falling short, which then prompted Stonewall and 30 LGBTQ+ and human rights organisations to provide evidence of their concerns once again to GANHRI.
“All countries need effective, independent National Human Rights Institutions to promote and protect human rights. With anti-trans hate crime and prejudice rising, and Britain sliding down the international rankings on LGBTQ+ rights, LGBTQ+ people in Great Britain need a more robust and independent human rights watchdog. We hope that this Special Review will give the EHRC the scrutiny and recommendations it needs to play the part our communities deserve.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission was created to promote and enforce equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Wales and Scotland (on UK-wide law) in 2007 following the passing of the Equality Act 2006.
As a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the EHRC is accredited by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), a UN body. GANHRI’s Special Committee on Accreditation conducts Periodic and Special Reviews of NHRIs to ensure their compliance with the Paris Principles, which sets out how NHRIs need to operate to fulfil their important mandate – with an emphasis on political independence, a pluralistic approach, and cooperation with civil society groups.
As such, civil society groups – including Stonewall – are invited to provide evidence submissions to Periodic and Special Reviews, and are able to raise concerns outside of these processes.
Following concerns from LGBTQ+ and human rights groups across Great Britain about the EHRC’s approach, Stonewall has submitted evidence on a number of occasions in the last two years to GANHRI regarding the EHRC’s compliance with the Paris Principles.
- 26 January 2022 – Stonewall responds to two interventions from EHRC which it believes undermined human rights protections for LGBTQ+ people in Great Britain.
- 10 February 2022 – Stonewall and 24 LGBTQ+ and human rights organisations make a 19 page evidence submission to GANHRI calling for a Special Review of EHRC.
- 4 April 2022 – GANHRI writes to Stonewall and others to confirm that it won’t carry out a Special Review, but invites evidence form civil society to inform the Periodic Review of EHRC scheduled for October 2022.
- 1 June 2022 – Stonewall and 25 other LGBTQ+ and human rights organisations make a submission to GANHRI’s Special Committee on Accreditation for the periodic review of EHRC, which takes place in October 2022.
- 7 October 2022 – GANHRI’s Special Committee on Accreditation made a number of critical recommendations to EHRC covering its work on LGBTI, race, migration and disability issues. Relevant to our concerns, the improvements GANHRI outlined it wanted to see from the EHRC include:
- Regain trust that the EHRC has the will to tackle key human rights issues effectively and independently: GANRHI highlighted LGBTI rights as one of several key issues where the EHRC must do more to ensure they are addressing matters in an “independent, effective, public and transparent manner”, and in line with international human rights standards.
- Cooperate with civil society organisations: the report outlined the need for the EHRC to take clear and visible steps to strengthen its working relationship with other human rights bodies to improve its understanding. However, since then, the EHRC has continued its work to undermine trans rights without any meaningful consultation with LGBTQ+ groups.
- Ensure its commissioning board meets requirements of diversity and pluralism: the report was clear in stating that the EHRC’s legislation is inadequate, and amendments must be made to its inner mechanics to ensure a wider range of voice, opinion and lived experience amongst its Commissioners.
- 3 May 2023 – Stonewall and 29 other LGBTQ+ organisations write to GANHRI to provide evidence of EHRC failing to act on the recommendations made to it by GANHRI in October 2022.