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Jewish Human Rights Organization Appeals to Lord Chancellor to Guarantee Rwanda Legislation “Adheres to Legal Principles”

René Cassin, a prominent Jewish human rights group, has urged the Lord Chancellor to make certain that the Safety of Rwanda Bill aligns with both UK and international law. This request is timely, as Members of Parliament are set to review various modifications proposed to the bill during recent debates in the House of Lords.–

Text of letter from René Cassin’s Mia Hasenson-Gross to the Lord Chancellor:, Alex Chalk KC MP:

14 March 2024

The Rt Hon Alex Chalk KC MP
Lord Chancellor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Dear Lord Chancellor

The Safety of Rwanda Bill and the rule of law

On 24 May 2023 you took the Lord Chancellor’s Oath to “respect the rule of law”. Speaking afterwards at the Royal Courts of Justice you underlined that pledge by saying “… the rule of law, access to justice, independence of the judiciary … aren’t quaint, airy notions to pay lip-service to – but the essential building blocks of a safe, fair and prosperous society”.

Peers across the political spectrum have already voiced deep concerns about the Bill and have approved ten amendments to mitigate its effects.

Conservative Lord Tugendhat said: “ … in this Bill the Government are seeking to achieve by Act of Parliament what in Nineteen Eighty-Four the ruling party and its apparatchiks sought to achieve by torture”, whilst his colleague Viscount Hailsham warned “ … we will be doing something that is in principle profoundly wrong in support of a policy that is going nowhere”.

René Cassin’s Executive Director, Mia Hasenson-Gross says:

“Lord Chancellors swear an oath to respect the rule of law. Speaking last May, the current Lord Chancellor went further – calling the rule of law one of the ‘essential building blocks of a safe, fair and prosperous society’.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill takes a sledgehammer to the rule of law. One Conservative peer called it ‘profoundly wrong’. Another likened the Government to the ruling party in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

At a time when social divisions are strained and minorities feel insecure and threatened, the rule of law provides stable and reassuring ballast. It is a vital part of a set of common values around which we can all unite. Seeing the Government ripping up its own rulebook is profoundly worrying, for everyone, but particularly for minorities.

We urge the Lord Chancellor to ensure that MPs take account of these concerns when they debate the Bill on Monday.”

We share your assessment and welcome your commitment. The rule of law benefits everyone, but minorities have a particular interest in constitutional and legal norms that uphold their rights and protect them from what Lord Hailsham famously termed an ‘elective dictatorship’. In addition, as a Jewish human rights organisation, we are acutely aware that today’s international humanitarian law framework developed as a response to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Concerns that the Safety of Rwanda Bill breaches rule of law principles are widespread. Last week, two of your Conservative colleagues in the House of Lords damned the legislation in the starkest of terms. On Tuesday 4 March, Lord Tugendhat said: “ in this Bill the Government are seeking to achieve by Act of Parliament what in Nineteen Eighty-Four the ruling party and its apparatchiks sought to achieve by torture”.

Two days later, Viscount Hailsham warned “ … we will be doing something that is in principle profoundly wrong in support of a policy that is going nowhere”.

If, as you have said, the rule of law is essential to ‘a safe, fair and prosperous society’, and the Safety of Rwanda Bill breaches rule of law principles to the extent that such eminent peers claim, it is difficult to understand how a reasonable and responsible government could allow the Bill to proceed without the additional safeguards the Lords have overwhelmingly recommended.

The Bill returns to the House of Commons on Monday. We urge you to ensure that the final legislation is compliant with domestic and international law, either by adopting Lords amendments to that effect or by some other method. Failure to do so would surely show contempt, rather than respect, for the rule of law.