Shami Chakrabarti, director of Human Rights group Liberty, has announced that she’s soon to depart after 12 years with the organisation. Chakrabarti first joined Liberty as in-house counsel on the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and was appointed director just two years later.
During Chakrabarti’s time in the role, the organisation has seen off attempts to impose compulsory national ID cards, disrupted Government plans to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days, defeated the internment of foreign nationals in Belmarsh Prison and challenged the “divisive” Section 44 Stop and Search without suspicion powers.
In the face of what Liberty describes as “increasingly savage attacks” on our rights and freedoms, the organisation asserts that it has “repeatedly demonstrated” the value of the Human Rights Act for all – from soldiers to protesters and the bereaved to the homeless through to “spied-on” families and the victims of modern slavery.
“It has been the most enormous privilege to lead Liberty for the past 12 years,” commented Chakrabarti. “With support provided by members, colleagues, lawyers, journalists and politicians from across the spectrum, we’ve managed to hold three Prime Ministers and six Home Secretaries to account.”
“The fight that is never done”
A regular panel member on BBC One’s popular Question Time, Chakrabarti continued: “Liberty’s first President, E.M. Forster, rightly called defending civil liberties ‘the fight that is never done’. I leave Liberty secure in the knowledge that we’re stronger and more ready for that fight than ever. Human Rights belong to everyone, and the organisation now begins its search for someone ready to defend these values well into the future.”
The recruitment process for Liberty’s new director is set to commence in the next few weeks, with Chakrabarti remaining in post until her successor is appointed.
During this time, Chakrabarti will continue to lead Liberty’s team of campaigning, legal, media and policy experts as the constituent members gear up for what promises to be a critical year ahead for civil liberties and Human Rights in the UK. Indeed, the coming months are expected to witness:
*Government plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with what Liberty feels is a “weaker” British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
*A ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to shape our surveillance laws through the Investigatory Powers Bill which, in its draft form, seeks to “legitimise mass surveillance” and “legalise hacking” with “pitiful oversight and accountability”
*The inquest into the death of Private Cheryl James at Deepcut Barracks back in 1995: an investigation secured only after Liberty used the Human Rights Act to obtain crucial evidence
Period of transformative leadership
Speaking about Chakrabarti’s time with the organisation, Frances Butler (chairman of Liberty) said: “Under Shami’s transformative leadership, Liberty has greatly extended its expertise, influence and membership. Thanks to Shami’s passion and fearlessness as well as her absolute dedication to championing Human Rights and civil liberties, Liberty’s long-term campaigning effectiveness is secured.”
Founded in 1934 in direct response to the hunger marches, Liberty has always been – and will continue to be – a multi-disciplinary team working together to protect civil liberties and promote Human Rights.