Human Rights

Freedom – or Freefall?

This piece was originally published as a blog post by René Cassin.   Imagine that everything is taken away from you. Forget your job. Forget your income, too. You have no home and no family you know how to contact. Imagine that you have 45 days to rebuild. And the clock is ticking. For former slaves, this isn’t merely a thought experiment. Last year, over 3,800 people went through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for victims of modern slavery. The government offered each of them just over six weeks of support in a safe house before cutting them loose. This is the cruel reality of the UK’s current modern slavery strategy. During those 45 days of what the government calls ‘reflection and recovery’, a victim’s first task is to prove that they are indeed a victim of slavery or human trafficking. If they can’t or don’t, the clock ticks faster: they have …

Justice for the Innocent

This piece was originally published as a blog post by René Cassin.   Who is at the centre of Britain’s Modern Slavery Act: slaves or their captors? When only 4.9 per cent of the compensation awarded in such cases is passed onto victims, as The Times claimed yesterday, we can’t help but wonder. This is what happens when priorities are skewed towards criminal justice and away from community care. Legislation that has upgraded modern slavery into a serious crime has had the added effect of encouraging prosecutions at the expense of caring for victims – in this case, quite literally. Crackdowns on gangs and traffickers provide the instant gratification that long-term rehabilitation of victims does not. We’ve seen it all before, only in a different context: the war on drugs, where the capture of cartel kingpins is taken as an unequivocal sign of success. We should be concerned, because how we start …

Who’s Afraid of Milo Yiannopoulos?

“I made a decision that has nothing to do with political ideology and everything to do with human rights and decency,” argued Adam Morgan’s article in The Guardian last week. The editor-in-chief of The Chicago Review of Books was justifying his magazine’s decision to boycott publisher Simon & Schuster in 2017. Why? For publishing a book whose author he finds repulsive. Stranger things have happened in the past year than the call to boycott a publisher in the name of liberalism, but not many. Morgan’s words do not sound brave. Instead, they demonstrate some of the most basic forms of repression, cowardice and fearfulness. Books become dangerous only when we show our own closed-mindedness to open debate. A hard-hitting review of Yiannopoulos’s book would have done far more to dismiss his slander and his lies. The Chicago Review should spend its time criticising ideas themselves, and not their free expression. …