Human Rights

Human Rights

There are two National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) operating within Scotland with the remit to protect and promote human rights. These are the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC). The EHRC is a UK wide NHRI, with the SHRC only operating within Scotland. Both have been accredited A-status by the United Nations which means they report directly to the UN on human rights issues that affect people's lives in Scotland.


For more information on these organisations and the implementation of human rights within Scotland please see below:

The United Nations

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States.  The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter. There are many treaties and conventions that have been drawn up and signed by member states to advance specific human rights, since the creation of their founding Charter.

International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

CRER routinely submits evidence to the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties.


All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially one year after acceding to the Convention and then every two years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”. The UK has been a signatory to the the Convention since 1966.

The UK's most recent examination took place in August 2016 at the UN Human Rights headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.


CRER contributed to a wider UK NGO alternative report as part of the 2016 reporting session, co-ordinated by Runnymede, as well as submitting Scottish specific evidence directly to the UN.

For more information on this, you can read:


After reviewing evidence from NGO’s and the UK state, CERD publishes a series of concluding observations, making recommendations on how racial discrimination may be eliminated in the United Kingdom.

Unlike other UN Committees, CERD has often overlooked devolution and given limited attention to the four administrations within the UK that have the powers necessary to implement CERD’s observations. A key aim for CRER when attending the 90th reporting session in Geneva was to lobby the Committee on the importance of devolution within the UK and outline areas in which powers have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

On the 26th August CERD published their concluding observations. Included in it, for the first time was thirteen mentions of Scotland and Scottish policies as well as a number of specific recommendations for Scotland on issues such as criminal justice, National Human Rights Institutions, racist hate speech and hate crimes, stop and search as well as access to justice.


Below are some key areas of improvement that CERD have issued which address Scotland:

  • The State party (should) ensure that the principles and the provisions of the Convention are directly and fully applicable under domestic law in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as the overseas territories and Crown dependencies.

  • The State party (should) ensure that the governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the British Overseas Territories and the Crown dependencies systematically collect and publish disaggregated data on the enjoyment of rights by members of ethnic minorities in all fields of life, and to include such information in the next periodic report.

  • The State party, including the governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the British Overseas Territories and the Crown dependencies (should):

    • Investigate all reported acts of racist hate crimes, prosecute and punish the perpetrators with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and provide effective remedies to victims;

    • Systematically collect disaggregated data on hate crimes, ensure that measures to combat racist hate crimes are developed with the meaningful participation of affected groups, and undertake a thorough impact assessment of the measures adopted to ensure their continued effectiveness;

    • Adopt concrete measures, in consultation with affected groups, to increase the reporting of racist hate crimes by ensuring that the reporting mechanism is transparent and accessible, and that victims have trust in the police and the justice system;

    • Adopt comprehensive measures to combat racist hate speech and xenophobic political discourse, including on the Internet (and) take effective measures to combat racist media coverage. 

  • The State party (should) ensure that individuals belonging to ethnic minorities in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as its overseas territories and Crown dependencies have fair and effective access to legal aid to seek justice. It recommends that the State party undertake a thorough assessment of the impact of the reforms to the legal aid system to ensure that individuals belonging to ethnic minorities are not disproportionately affected.

  • The State party (should) ensure that the governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales:

    • Strengthen (their) efforts to eliminate all racist bullying and harassment in schools, including by requiring schools to collect qualitative and quantitative data on bullying on the grounds of race, and to use the data to develop concrete strategies;

    • Ensure that the school curricula contains a balanced account of the history of British Empire and colonialism, including slavery and other grave human rights violations.

  • The State party (should) ensure that the governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, regularly review the impact of stop and search powers on persons belonging to visible ethnic minority groups, and take effective measures to ensure that such powers are used in a lawful, non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner on the basis of reasonable suspicion, with rigorous monitoring and review mechanisms.

  • The State party (should) ensure that the overrepresentation of persons belonging to black and ethnic minority groups at all stages of the criminal justice system in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is thoroughly investigated, and take concrete measures to effectively address racial prejudice and bias in the criminal justice system.

The Committee also welcomed the adoption of the Scottish National Action Plan (SNAP) for Human Rights and the Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030 that was launched in March this year.

The 2016 Concluding Observations can be found here.


The 2011 Concluding Observations can be found here.

Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the support of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.


The UK is due to be assessed in May 2017. As part of this process CRER contributed evidence to the Scottish Human Right’s Commission (SHRC) as part of their joint evidence as well as submitting our own race specific report to the United Nations.

CRER's evidence submission to the SHRC can be found here.

SHRC's submission can be found here.


States can accept or note recommendations but they cannot reject them. Response to each recommendation must be clearly explained in writing in a specific document of up to 2,675 words called "addendum". This addendum should be submitted to the Human Rights Council in advance of the adoption of the report at the HRC session. CRER will continue to monitor the recommendations made and follow up on their implementation.

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe promotes human rights through international conventions, such as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and the Convention on Cybercrime. It monitors member states' progress in these areas and makes recommendations through independent expert monitoring bodies. 


CRER routinely submits evidence to the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities to report on race equality within Scotland.

You can read CRER’s submission here.


More information can be found here: