Human rights law covers many aspects of public justice, equality before law, laws against discrimination, freedom of speech and prisoners’ rights.
It also covers sanctions against governments and regimes with gross human rights violations, persecution against minorities and downtrodden societies, and all areas where there is a conflict between the “public and individual good.”
What does human rights law involve?
The history of human rights law, as a separate and distinct legal area, can be traced back to the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) in the UK, where, for the first time, general principles of human rights, public law and EU and international legal principles were added to prevailing English law.
The European Convention on Human Rights was ratified as part of the enactment of the HRA; the application of which covers civil and criminal litigation and judicial reviews on appeal. In civil matters, the application of public interest/human rights can come up in cases which concern issues such as the right to work, education, community welfare, family welfare, and discrimination on grounds of age, gender, race, disability or religion.
In criminal matters, you will be working with issues that may arise from the incorrect application of enforcement procedures, police brutality, torture of prisoners, illegal confinement, infringement of public rights to peaceful assembly, false arrests or wrongful identification of suspects, refusal to provide legal resource opportunities for wronged claimants, accusations of terrorist activities and extradition issues.
Immigration law is yet another important segment of human rights principles. This is an extremely current and hot topic, which covers business and private immigration issues. Personal immigration matters involve pleas for asylum and/or extended residence in the UK on human rights’ grounds, particularly from individuals who’ve been disenfranchised in their countries or have escaped persecution or torture.
Commercial immigration covers travel on temporary or permanent visas for business purposes, skilled and unskilled migrants looking to migrate to the UK for longer/extended stay and companies which regularly bring in overseas workers for the execution of work projects.
The daily tasks for a human rights lawyer and ancillary staff can include: advising clients (individuals or groups) on actions taken by various public bodies or organisations, collecting documentation and facts in evidence, interviewing witnesses and concerned parties, preparing for filing suits and taking part in court proceedings.
What makes a good human rights lawyer?
Excellent people management skills, thorough knowledge of laws and regulations, empathy and patience, providing fair and judicious opinions and integrity are all important qualities required by solicitors wishing to practise in this area.
Strong advocacy skills are a must since much of the activity in human rights and immigration involves a significantly higher percentage of contentious work.