Joint Committee on Human Rights

Human Rights Protections in International Agreements inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Report and Government response published.

Report published

The Committee says that there must be a new and better approach to international agreements so that the UK maintains its status as a champion of human rights.

The report proposes:

  1. Standard human rights protections should be included in all agreements.
  2. The Government must ensure that human rights expertise is embedded into the negotiating teams working on all international agreements.
  3. The Government must provide the UK Parliament’s Human Rights Committee a human rights memorandum for all proposed international Agreements once there is a draft text.
  4. The Government must inform Parliament of all international agreements that it intends to negotiate and regularly report back to the Committee on implementation so human rights standards can be monitored.
  5. Parliament’s role must be strengthened in scrutinising these agreements to ensure high human rights standards.

Government response published

The Government commits to ensuring that all Explanatory Memoranda accompanying treaties laid before Parliament under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG) contain a separate section which sets out the compatibility of the treaty’s provisions with the UK’s international human rights obligations (see Committee recommendations 3 and 14).

Scope of the inquiry

International Agreements contain increasingly important provisions in a modern, globalised world and can have significant impacts on a huge variety of areas. 

Deals done in such agreements can impact on the human rights of those living in the UK and also the human rights of those living overseas.  This could involve justice or home affairs treaties, such as mutual legal cooperation or extradition treaties, or trade deals allowing businesses special access to markets or the export of goods that could be used in human rights violations.

All of these agreements have the potential to impact human rights, such as the rights of workers, the right to be free from servitude and forced labour, and the right to privacy of data as it passes across borders.
The JCHR is embarking on a short inquiry into whether parliament should set up a specific mechanism to scrutinise international agreements for compliance with human rights post-Brexit and what processes should be followed to ensure adequate scrutiny of compliance with human rights standards in international agreements.

Terms of reference

Latest evidence

  • 23 Jan 2019 - Human rights protections in international agreements - oral evidence | PDF version (PDF257 KB) Published 28 Jan 2019

    Evidence given by Dr Lorand Bartels, Reader in International Law and Fellow, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, Sam Fowles, Barrister, Cornerstone Barristers, and James Harrison, Associate Professor, University of Warwick; Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Richard Jones, Deputy Director, Human Rights and Democracy Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (at 4.15pm).

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