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Rwanda bill sparks UN judicial concerns
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05 Mar 2024 / britain Print

Rwanda bill sparks UN judicial concerns

UN experts have declared that the British Government’s proposed legislation on Rwanda threatens to undermine judicial independence.

The Law Society Gazette of England and Wales says that the British Government now faces a constitutional headache in getting its emergency bill on the issue through parliament.

The Law Society of England and Wales has also warned that there is no evidence that Rwanda is yet a safe country for asylum seekers.

‘Violation of international law’

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which started in the House of Commons, entered report stage in the House of Lords yesterday (4 March).

On Friday, UN experts – including Margaret Satterthwaite, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers – said that provisions in the bill “constitute an interference with the independence of the judiciary and a violation of international law”.

The bill requires decision-makers to “conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country”.

The Gazette says, however, that the UN’s experts are concerned that the bill overrides the power of the judiciary to rule independently on the facts of a case before it and apply the law.

Interim measures

The UN’s experts said: “Provisions in the draft law would unduly limit judicial independence by requiring judges to treat Rwanda as a safe third country now and in the future, regardless of any evidence to the contrary before them.”

The proposed legislation would also prevent courts from applying interim measures ordered by the European Court of Human Rights.

The UN’s experts said interim measures “are particularly important for the protection of human rights in urgent cases where there is a real risk of irreparable harm”.


The Law Society also said that the bill, as it currently stood, was constitutionally improper and barred access to justice.

Society president Nick Emmerson said: “The bill would state that parliament judges Rwanda to be a safe country immediately and forever. But there is no evidence of this.

“The UK government says that the existence of the December 2023 Rwanda Treaty is sufficient – but we are deeply concerned that the government does not know whether the safeguards in the treaty are yet operational, or even when they will be.”

In December, Britain and Rwanda signed a treaty that home secretary James Cleverly (pictured) said directly addressed the Supreme Court's concerns, was binding in international law, and ensured that people relocated to Rwanda were not at risk of being returned to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland