On 4 and 5 February 2015, the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Association UK held a conference to celebrate 800 years of the Magna Carta. The Conference 'Human Rights in the Modern Day Commonwealth: Magna Carta to Commonwealth Charter’ brought together nearly 50 Commonwealth parliamentarians to explore the fundamental importance of human rights and the development of protections for these rights in law from 1215 to 2015.

Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights addressed parliamentarians in a session on the conflicts between protection for human rights and cultural values. Prof Viljoen examined the concept of culture, which he suggested was often used as shorthand for ‘the views of the majority.’ He also emphasised that any claim to ‘cultural override’ of a human right could not stand without a proportionality test, and that such a test must be considered within a human rights framework.

In a once-in a generation occurrence, parliamentarian delegates were then joined by Commonwealth scholars for a hugely impressive exhibition in the House of Lords, having come from the British Library, which reunited the four original copies of Magna Carta for the first time since they were sealed 800 years ago.

The Conference programme included the practical and social understanding of rights and freedoms, protection of women and girls, FGM, the death penalty, equality, LGBT rights, freedom of speech and a free press, terrorism and the right to a fair trial.


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