The government’s failure to adequately respond to the Grenfell tragedy may breach human rights legislation, according to the UK’s human rights watchdog.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government to highlight that the continued use of combustible cladding could mean the government is not in line with Article 2 (the right to life) of the Human Rights Convention – which was incorporated into UK law through the Human Rights Act 1998.
In June 2018, the department began a consultation process into the use of cladding, which is believed to have been a key a factor in the fire engulfing Grenfell Tower in west London on 14 June, 2017, resulting in the loss of 72 lives.
Use of Combustible Cladding is a Violation of The Right To Life
The right to safe housing is a human right Image Credit: Duncan C / Flickr
The EHRC shared its response to the consultation with the Observer, stating: “Unfortunately, over a year after the catastrophic loss of more than 70 residents’ lives, many of the very systemic failings that led to the Grenfell Tower fire still exist now, giving rise, in our view, to an ongoing violation of Article 2 […] by the state.”
The EHRC also raised concerns about leaseholders being asked to pay for the costs of removing and replacing cladding in public housing, as well as the continued use of potentially combustible cladding in public buildings, including schools and hospitals.
The very systemic failings that led to the Grenfell Tower fire still exist now, giving rise… to an ongoing violation of Article 2 ECHR/HRA by the state.
“Estimates of the number of buildings affected run into the thousands, with the estimated costs of replacing combustible materials running into many millions of pounds. All those costs stem from the state’s failure to provide a building construction and fire safety system that is fit for purpose.”
Investigating Grenfell Through the Lens of Human Rights
Justice For Grenfell block at an anti-austerity march in summer 2017. Image Credit: Garry Knight / Flickr
Some of the questions Following Grenfell will seek to answer are whether residents and survivors have been treated with fairness, dignity and respect, whether authorities listened to residents’ concerns regarding the safety of the tower block, and whether the state has failed in its duty to protect life.
The independent public Grenfell Inquiry began in May 2018 and the next hearing is scheduled for Monday 3 September. It’s possible to follow the Inquiry in detail here.