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UK’s Grenfell Tower Families Still Waiting For Justice

Two Years After Deadly Blaze, Basic Steps Towards Safer Housing Incomplete

Street art in Ladbroke Grove, West London, commemorating the victims of Grenfell Tower fire, December 2017. © Benjamin Ward/Human Rights Watch

On June 14, 2017, west London awoke to a disaster. The acrid smell of smoke and incessant sirens signalled something was deeply wrong.

The fire at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington took 72 lives and left 70 more injured, hundreds homeless, and a community in shock and grief.

Two years later, the sense that something is wrong remains.

Yes, a public inquiry has been set up to look at what led to the deaths and what lessons can be drawn for the future. Yet the inquiry has been beset by delays and a report setting out the conclusion of its first stage has yet to be published.

Yes, the government has agreed to fund the removal of the kind of flammable cladding that covered Grenfell Tower from other tall buildings. But as Grenfell United, a community group, highlighted this week, two years on some hi-rise buildings still have such cladding or lack basic safety measures like sprinklers.

Yes, the government commissioned a fire safety report in 2017 that called for systemic change to fire regulations that were not “fit for purpose.” Yet more than a year after its publication, the government is still “consulting” on possible changes.

Yes, the Metropolitan Police is pursuing criminal investigations into possible manslaughter charges relating to the fire, and have interviewed 13 possible suspects. But no individual or organisation has yet faced a single criminal charge for what took place and police say it may be another two years before any charges are brought.

Prime Minister Theresa May made a promise to the survivors and the families of the victims that she would not let them down.

More importantly, the UK government has a duty under human rights law to protect people’s lives, including by making sure housing is safe to live in. Earlier this year, a national human rights institution concluded that the authorities’ failure to make Grenfell safe before the fire fell foul of that duty.

Two years on, it is evident that those who died and those who survived that dreadful night still lack the thing they need the most: justice. 

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