In the news 

Fighting in Gaza paused this weekend, as Hamas and Israel agreed to a temporary, four-day reprieve. Twenty-six hostages have been released by Hamas and 39 Palestinian detainees held in pre-trial detention have been allowed to return to the West Bank. Under the terms of the agreement negotiated by Qatar, a total of 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian detainees are meant to be exchanged between the parties. The temporary pause in fighting has also allowed much-needed humanitarian assistance and fuel to reach the Gaza strip. 

The Covid-19 Inquiry heard evidence this week from Sir Patrick Vallance (former Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Professor Sir Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer for England) and Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam (former Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England). In his statement, Sir Patrick Vallance said the Government’s scientific advisers were not consulted on Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and ‘didn’t see it before it was announced.’ This undermines written comments made by Rishi Sunak to the Inquiry, where he said that no one raised concerns with him about the policy. Meanwhile, Sir Chris Whitty said in March 2020, ministers mistakenly understood ‘herd immunity’ to be a government policy objective, and he tried to stop the idea from being discussed publicly because herd immunity would have been ‘inconceivable.’ The inquiry will hear further evidence this coming week. 

Meanwhile, Ian Fry, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, has recently condemned the jail sentences for two Just Stop Oil protesters who scaled a bridge on the Dartford Crossing last October. The activists were given two and three year prison sentences for causing a public nuisance, and were refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the basis that their sentences met the ‘legitimate aim’ of deterring others from similar offending. Ian Fry raised concerns about the length of the activist’s sentences, and the political flow-on effect the sentences could have on activists expressing concerns about the environmental crisis ‘and the impacts of climate change on human rights and on future generations’. Fry said the new Public Order Act was a ‘direct attack on the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly.’ There has not been any response from the Government. 

In other news 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said this week that some companies are not giving users ‘fair choice’ about the use of cookies. Cookies are small files that store on your computer and collect analytical data about website usage. They are often used to personalise ads based on a user’s browsing history. The law regulating the use of cookies (the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) will be altered by the proposed Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which is due its third reading in the House of Commons on 29 November 2023. Under the proposed reforms, some information – for improving website service or security – will be collected without consent, resulting in fewer ‘pop-ups’ requesting the user consent to cookies. The ICO has not yet named the companies it thinks are falling short of current guidance, but will provide an update in January.

Meanwhile, the National Women’s Prisons Health and Social Care Review was published this week. Established in 2021, the Review is intended to improve health and social care outcomes for women in prison and upon their release. Conducting a review of the 12 women’s prisons in England, the Review found healthcare across women’s prisons to be ‘inconsistent’ and not always ‘gender specific’ or sensitive to women with protected characteristics. It suggests ‘fabric improvements’ across the women’s estate should be made. 

Finally, the independent review into Lancashire Police’s handling of Nicola Bulley’s death was also released this week. Bulley went missing in January, and was found three weeks after her disappearance in the River Wyre. Amongst other findings, the report says Lancashire Police should have been better prepared to communicate sensitive medical information about Bulley in a more ‘carefully constructed manner’. 

In the Courts 

The “Bille and Ogale Group Litigation”. Mrs Justice May handed down the latest judgement in the ongoing litigation between communities and individuals of the Niger Delta, and the oil giant, Shell. The case concerns oil contamination affecting two regions of the Niger Delta – the Bille and Ogale regions. In her judgement, Mrs Justice May held the claimants could bring new causes of action under the African Charter and Nigerian Constitution, which recognise ‘as a fundamental right the right to a clean and healthy environment’. There is no limitation period for human rights claims brought under the Nigerian Constitutional framework.  Mrs Justice May also refused the Defendant’s application to strike out the claims. The case continues. 

In Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (“IWGB”) v Central Arbitration Committee (“CAC”) and another [2023] UKSC 43 the Supreme Court held that Deliveroo drivers are not in an employed relationship for the purposes of Article 11 ECHR (freedom of assembly and association). The case concerned Deliveroo riders in London who became members of the IWGB and sought formal recognition of the Union by Deliveroo for collective bargaining on behalf of Deliveroo drivers in Camden and Kentish Town. The Supreme Court stated that the right to form a trade union arises in the context of an employment relationship. Applying this to the facts of the case, the CAC rightly found there was no employment relationship between Deliveroo and its riders, as the riders can appoint a substitute to take their job, can work or not as convenient to them, and are not prevented from working for Deliveroo’s competitors. Thus, in this case, the riders are unable to rely on the trade union rights conferred by Article 11. The appeal was dismissed. 

The post The Weekly Round-up: Gaza reprieve, Covid-19 Inquiry continues, and oil-spill litigation in the Niger Delta appeared first on UK Human Rights Blog.