A United Nations expert says that the jail sentences given to the protesters of the “Just Stop Oil” movement may violate international law.
A United Nations expert has stated that the lengthy sentences given to two protesters of the Just Stop Oil movement, who climbed the M25 bridge over the Thames, could potentially violate international law and stifle public discourse on environmental issues.
Ian Fry, the United Nations’ representative for climate change and human rights, stated in a forceful statement that he has specific worries about the punishments given, which were much harsher than those given for similar violations in the past.
He expressed his deep concerns about the potential consequences of the severe sentences on civil society and the efforts of activists. He also shared worries about the triple planetary crisis and specifically, the effects of climate change on human rights and future generations.
Last October, Marcus Decker and Morgan Trowland disrupted traffic for nearly 40 hours by scaling the cables of the Queen Elizabeth II suspension bridge in Dartford, Kent. They were protesting in solidarity with the Just Stop Oil climate activist group.
The bridge, which is among the busiest in the UK, is where the M25 motorway, which circles London, crosses over the Thames.
Both individuals were found guilty of creating a disturbance in public, resulting in Decker being incarcerated for a duration of two years and seven months and Trowland for three years. These penalties were the most severe given to peaceful demonstrators in the UK thus far.
Fry inquired about the UK government’s reasoning for implementing and enforcing the Public Order Act, as well as how it aligns with global norms and standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This inquiry was made in light of Decker and Trowland’s right to peaceful protest.
He insisted that ministers disclose the actions they have implemented to guarantee that non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, and all human rights activists are able to conduct their peaceful work without fear of danger, aggression, harassment, or retribution in any form.
Fry’s letter, dated 15 August, has not received a response from the UK government. Additionally, a letter sent on 22 December by Fry and four other rapporteurs, addressing the compatibility of provisions in the Public Order Act with international human rights law, has also gone unanswered, as noted in Fry’s letter.
The Home Office did not reply to a comment request.
A representative from Just Stop Oil stated, “The actions of our politicians could result in the deaths of millions and the loss of hard-earned rights and freedoms. This is the harsh truth of climate collapse, as indicated by Dr. Ian Fry.”
“If the government is disregarding a letter from the UN, how likely is it that they will pay attention to ordinary citizens writing to their MPs? It is crucial that we take to the streets and protest, showing our support for the political prisoners who have been imprisoned for fighting for their future. Join us in a peaceful march in London, starting at Trafalgar Square at 12 noon every day.”