Human rights apply to everyone everywhere.
Many islanders might live their whole lives without thinking about or even without understanding the relevance of rights in Guernsey.
The very fact that some people believe that rights are only relevant to people in third world countries or that criminals and “bad people” shouldn’t have rights, demonstrates some fundamental misunderstanding and appreciation of human rights.
Rights have relevance to every aspect of life, everywhere. Rights shape the way we are all able to live our lives.
All the systems and policies which govern our laws, and the essential services we all need to achieve an adequate standard of living, are affected by human rights.
Our education system, our employment laws, laws governing the supply of goods and services, laws governing how the justice system works and our policies governing health services, are all affected by human rights.
When Guernsey enacted its Human Rights Law in 2000, it meant that all other Guernsey Law had to be interpreted in line with our Human Rights Law.
Because many of our systems already comply with human rights, or because the way they are setup may be OK for the majority of islanders, many islanders will be able to live their lives without either consciously exercising their rights or challenging abuses or infringements of their rights.
But democracy is not just about providing for the majority. True democratic societies have a basis in respect for human rights. Those rights include the right to non-discrimination and equality of opportunity. For example, public services, such as transport, should be usable by all, not just available to all. Buses, for instance, which are unable to be used by persons with disabilities can be seen as undemocratic because their design does not comply with human right principles.
The fact is that Guernsey does not yet respect all rights and there are some important protections, particularly involving protection against discrimination, that islanders do not have.
Most islanders are probably not even aware that we have human rights legislation, nor do we yet have a proper system which advises islanders about their rights or helps them to exercise those rights.
As well as campaigning for the rights of persons with disabilities and for rights in general, the Guernsey Disability Alliance has campaigned strongly for the States to set up an independent Equality and Rights Organisation (ERO). An ERO would help ensure more islanders knew their rights and, importantly, would be there to help protect and monitor the rights of all islanders.