Using our unique legal powers, we have intervened in a series of human rights cases both domestically and in Europe. These cases have resulted in individuals getting the protection they deserve, from soldiers serving overseas to gay people fleeing from persecution.
Examples of our interventions
- HJ and HT v Secretary of State for Home Department
The Supreme Court accepted the test set out by the EHRC in respect of gay asylum seekers. It held that gay asylum seekers could not be returned to their country of origin on basis that they could avoid persecution by being discreet.
- R (Smith) v Secretary of State for Defence
The Court accepted the EHRC's submissions on the need for an Article 2 compliant investigation but did not accept its submissions on the jurisdictional application of the HRA.
- A Local Authority v A, B, C, D and E
The EHRC was requested to intervene by the Court. The Court accepted the ECHR's submissions on positive obligations of the state in respect of disabled children being locked in their bedrooms by their parents for their own safety, but that these were limited to support and advice
- R (G) v The Governors of X School, Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families, EHRC intervening
The Commission submitted that, given the grave consequences of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing for G, he was entitled to a fair trial, including the right to be represented by a lawyer. In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Commission. Lord Justice Laws said it 'was well established here and in Strasbourg that the level of procedural protection ... depends on what is at stake.' Given the effect that having an advocate might have on the disciplinary proceedings and the high stakes involved G should be afforded the opportunity to arrange legal representation should he wish. This case is due to heard in the Supreme Court in April 2011.
- NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department
The Court of Appeal has referred a number of questions regarding the interpretation of EU law, including the scope of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UK Protocol, to the Court of Justice of the EU and has stayed the appeal pending the outcome of the reference. The Commission's intervention has already had measurable effect. Just prior to the hearing the Secretary of State conceded that 'the fundamental rights set out in the [EU] Charter [of Fundamental Rights] can be relied on as against the United Kingdom and ...that [the High Court] erred in holding otherwise'. At the Commission's request, the Court noted the concession in its reasons for making the reference and also confirmed that the purpose of the Protocol was not to give the UK an opt out from the Charter. The questions referred to the Court of Justice include questions on the scope of the Charter and particularly the effect of the Protocol and the Commission has been invited to make submissions.
- R (Ghai) v Newcastle upon Tyne City Council
The EHRC submitted that not permitting Mr Ghai to have an open air funeral pyre for his own funeral would breach his rights under Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court of Appeal ruled Mr Ghai can be cremated in an open air crematorium, in line with his religious beliefs under the Cremation Act. It did not need to consider Human rights arguments.
- Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds v Charity Commission)
The High Court accepted the Commission’s submission that as a public authority the Charity Commission was obliged to take human rights into consideration when deciding whether it should permit a religious charity to change its charitable objectives so as to discriminate against gay adopters. The Charity Commission was ordered to review its decision. It did so and found that it could not approve the Charity's application. The Charity has appealed.
- P, Q, R v Local Authorities A and B - First Tier Tribunal (Social Security)
The tribunal found that the Housing Benefit Regulations breach Article 8 (in the case of one of the appellants) and Article 14 (in the case of all the appellants) of the European Convention on Human Rights. All three appellants have mental health problems and have been detained for periods of more than 52 weeks under mental health legislation. The pattern for each is of periods of detention followed by periods when they are well enough to return to their home. When housing benefit is lost, their homes are at risk of repossession; The rule being challenged is that after 52 weeks in hospital Housing Benefit is lost because the person is no longer regarded as being 'temporarily absent' from their home. The appellants and the Commission argued that the 52 week rule fails to take into account the different position of those who are compulsorily detained in hospital under mental health legislation. The tribunal held that the rules should be read to mean 'limited to 52 weeks, or in the case of someone [temporarily absent in hospital]..such further period as the authority considers to be proportionate in all the circumstances of the case'.
- JM v UK
The Commission argued that a same-sex couple should come within the definition of 'family life' for the purposes of Article 8 and that when assessing whether or not a situation comes within the ambit of a particular Convention right, a broad approach should be adopted. The Court held she had been discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation but found it unnecessary to consider whether a same-sex couple could be considered a 'family' within the meaning of Article 8.
- Kay v UK
The European Court of Human Rights agreed with the Commission, saying that 'the loss of one's home is the most extreme form of interference with the right to respect for the home'. They went on to say that anyone facing a loss of that magnitude has the right to have the proportionality of the loss determined by an independent court or tribunal, even where the right of occupation has come to an end.
- Al Saadoon v UK
The European Court of Human Rights found that the government's arrest and detention of the men violated their rights under Articles 3, 13, and 34 of the European Convention. The European Court of Human Rights criticised the Government for failing to take all reasonable steps to comply with its interim order and to obtain assurance from the Iraqi authorities that the men would not face the death penalty. The Commission had submitted to the Court that where Britain’s international law obligations conflict with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, human rights considerations should prevail. The European Court of Human Rights agreed, confirming that human rights considerations are paramount in cases such as these and it is not open to a Contracting State 'to enter into an agreement which conflicts with its obligations under the Convention.'