Secondary Citizenship – Whose human rights?

The release of Abu Qatada has led to headlines designed to convince newspaper readers that human rights should not be promoted or defended. This raises plenty of issues for Citizenship lessons. They range from the need for world agreements on human rights to actions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the way the British legal system operates.

Any of the articles in the popular press provide opportunities for students to distinguish between fact and opinion. An easy example, if students need to be introduced to the idea, would be ‘Best friend claimed Qatada came to London to enjoy free speech – and NOT because he was fleeing torture’

The following link takes you such an article:

The lessons that you might teach about this issue will vary from year group to year group. It’s very emotive so it would be wise to stick to simpler issues with younger students so using it as a starter for human rights would be interesting. The European Court refused permission to deport him to Jordan because if he was put on trial, the evidence used might have resulted from torture. Students readily follow the basic human rights of housing, food and education but it is useful to have examples of ones which, thankfully, are less familiar.

Older students might be asked to explore the issue to find out what lies behind the headlines. Abu Qatada had been imprisoned for seven years without trial. Is this right? Why was he held for so long without being brought to court?

Liberty, the pressure group which aims to protect civil liberties and promote human rights, has a website which explains its campaigns and views on current issues. It believes that Abu Qatada should be tried in Britain and questions why this hasn’t happened.

Liberty has a great website to use when exploring human rights. The organisation ran a competition for schools last year. Students were asked to write a short piece of poetry or prose inspired by any or all of the Articles within the Human Rights Act and the winners came from schools across the country. Keep an eye open for future competitions.

If you want to keep up with ongoing human rights issues, Liberty’s blog is a useful tool and they have plenty of resources for schools.

Jenny Wales is author of Citizenship Today for GCSE, published by Collins.

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