On 15 July 2016, I convinced myself to switch off from the world for an evening, ‘nothing ground-breaking would happen.’ That night, I switched on my phone to find the Turkish army had attempted a coup d’état against the government and President Erdogan.
And so is the story of the year that was 2016.
— F Jichi (@f_jichi) November 9, 2016
From Brexit and President-Elect Trump to Aleppo and Brussels, we have all followed the major news stories of the past year, through real and fake news.
But here are four stories you might have missed which show 2016 was not without hope.
1. Snooper’s Charter deemed unlawful
In November this year the UK government passed a law, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016, which gave them shockingly sweeping and unprecedented powers of surveillance. These included the right to retain all our communications data and internet history, as well as the right to hack our communications and devices.
The legality of surveillance laws was challenged in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ruled that Member States (including the UK until Brexit materialises) may not impose a general obligation on telecomms companies to retain communications data.
The CJEU did not specifically address the IPA 2016, but it means parts of the IPA 2016 are no longer compatible with EU law and will need to be amended in line with the judgment:
- governments have a duty to ensure communications data is kept confidential
- this can only be interfered with for the purpose of safeguarding national security or fighting serious crime
- national laws providing for general retention of communications data for everyone are unlawful
- access to data should only be granted where individuals are suspected of involvement in crime
- a court should review the request to access data
2. Bedroom tax deemed partly unlawful
A year of austerity, 2016 saw the introduction of many unfair measures including the bedroom tax. Introduced in April, the bedroom tax reduced the housing benefit of families with ‘spare bedrooms’ in their homes, to encourage people to move out of homes they are ‘under-occupying’.
A family with two parents, two teenage boys and two teenage girls, for example, are only entitled to three bedrooms. If each of the teenagers had their own rooms, these will be considered ‘spare bedrooms’.
The tax, however, was found to impact people with disabilities and children disproportionately. The UK courts decided the bedroom tax was unlawful for the following:
- adults who needed a spare room for overnight carers
- children with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms
- adults with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms
3. Hillsborough victory for families
In 1989, 96 football fans were crushed to death at a Liverpool FC football match. The police and media unjustly blamed the fans for the tragedy, claiming they had broken an exit gate and forced their way into the crowded stand, causing a crush at the front.
For 27 years, their brave families fought for the truth about their deaths. Thanks to the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to life and imposes a duty on the police to investigate loss of life, an inquest jury was set up to investigate the Hillsborough Disaster.
The jury concluded the 96 were killed unlawfully based on the following findings:
- the police owed a duty of care to the 96
- they were in breach of that duty
- the breach caused the deaths
- the breach amounted to gross negligence.
— Liverpool FC News (@LivEchoLFC) April 26, 2016
4. UN resolution against Israeli settlements
The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution calling on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Security Council declared Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 had no legal validity. These settlements constituted a ‘flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.’
The Council reiterated its demand that ‘Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.’
Full UN article here.