Summary: Gulf Center for Human Rights seeks to challenge UK government in court over obligation to comply with international law

SRT grantee the Gulf Centre for Human Rights has been granted leave to challenge the UK government in court over its international legal obligations.

In October 2015, the government removed an obligation from the Ministerial Code on government ministers to comply with international law. In spite of criticism by senior legal figures, Theresa May reissued the Code in December 2016 without restoring this obligation.

The Gulf Center relies on international advocacy to hold the Gulf States to account and to protect human rights defenders, but this would become more difficult if Western governments diminished their own commitment to international law and the separation of powers. The Center has also relied in the past on the international law and the courts to hold Western governments to account when they prioritised economic ties with Gulf States over human rights.

The Gulf Center applied to the High Court for judicial review of the decision via solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn. The Court initially rejected the request on the grounds that the Code could not be judicially reviewed, whilst recognising that the case was “interesting” and “brought for good motives”. The Center was granted permission to appeal this ruling on 4 January 2017. A full hearing at the Court of Appeal will now follow.

Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn said, “Ensuring ministerial accountability for complying with the UK’s international law obligations is more important than ever and the ministerial code was an important part of that. It is very welcome that the lawfulness of the changes and the explanations given for them will now be properly tested.”

Melanie Gingell of the Gulf Center said, “It is good news that we will have a full court of appeal hearing. Our work relies on countries such as the UK abiding by their international law obligations, and this was a worrying and symbolic change.”Coverage from the Gulf Center’s website:

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