European Court of Human Rights alerted to Home Office’s discriminatory DNA database plans

European Court of Human Rights alerted to Home Office

Human rights and race equality groups have alerted officials at the European Court of Human Rights to the discriminatory way in which Government plans for the National Criminal DNA database will impact on Britons ethnic minorities.

Legal experts and campaigns groups concerns over the continuing misinterpretation of the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the retention of innocent DNA has been brought to the attention of the European Court ahead of the 1065th Committee of Ministers Human Rights summit in Strasbourg this month.

A consortium of NGO’s and campaigns groups have notified EU Committee Members that Home Office’s plans to continue to retain innocent DNA profiles and fingerprints of anyone arrested but not convicted for 6 or 12 years, will contravene human rights law.

Headed up by GeneWatch UK the consortium which includes Black Mental Health UK, Liberty, Privacy International, Action on Rights for Children and No2ID, wrote to ministers in Strasburg last week, detailing the widespread criticism documented in a number of Home Office consultation responses and elsewhere of the Government’s plans .

The letter highlighted expert statisticians and criminologists condemnation of the research on which the proposed retention times of innocent DNA are based. The correspondence also detailed questions raised by legal experts on the Government’s interpretation of the judgement, which they say if implemented would contravene Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.

Race equality groups flagged up the failure to assess or justify the disproportionate impact that current proposals will have on black people living in the UK, which will contravene both equalities and human rights laws.

The discriminatory way in which the DNA database has been managed has led to fears that the DNA database has effectively criminalised every family from the African Caribbean community living in the UK.

Currently 77 percent of young black men between the age of 18 and 35 have their DNA on the database. Three out of four black men living in the UK have their DNA on the database even though the Home Office’s research shows that this group have lower offending rates than their white counterparts. Shocking figures also show that the DNA database holds the genetic profiles of almost a quarter of all black children resident in the UK compared to 10 percent of all white children.

The consortiums letter which will come before officials at the European Court of Human Rights on 15th and 16th of September 2009.

‘The disproportionate impact the criminal database has had on Britain’s black communities has been consistently ignored throughout this process. This government needs to be cognisant that any decision that is made in reviewing the way the DNA database is used needs to take into the legal duties in equalities and human rights legislation. We shouldn’t have to go all the way to European Court to ensure the human rights of minorities are not routinely overlooked,’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

‘The Home Office’s approach to interpreting the Marper ruling is inadequate in multiple ways and we would expect the Committee of Ministers to agree with this line. We would like to see them remind the Government of what the European Court ruling actually said, and ensure that new legislation introduced by this government is in line with Human Rights legislation’ Dr Helen Wallace director of GeneWatch UK said.

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