14 May 2015

NI equality groups warn UK gov over human rights proposals

Northern Ireland human rights and equality organisations are warning the UK government over a proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act which could jeopardise the historic Good Friday peace Agreement.

Northern Ireland: The Belfast Agreement is under threat from the new Conservative Government Josemaria Toscano

The historic Good Friday peace agreement of 1998 paved the way for the ECHR to be incorporated into Northern Ireland law. The NIHRC, which was created in the 1998 agreement, said nothing should be done to undermine what it described as a "foundation stone" of the peace process. Chief Commissioner Les Allamby said that after 17 years of improving lives and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable in society the  Government should be indicating its intent to repeal the Human Rights Act.  

Weakening protections

Mr Allamby said of the proposed changes: 'Any changes to our current human rights framework, must not reduce the protections contained in the Human Rights Act, nor weaken the mechanisms for securing redress for breaches of human rights.' He added that th t'he Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement committed the UK Government to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law, with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breaches of the Convention. The Human Rights Act fulfilled this commitment.'   He said that the Commission had repeatedly advised against a move 'which can only serve to undermine a foundation stone of the Northern Ireland peace process, reduce hard won protections for everyone living in the UK, and damage the state's international reputation.'


Independent human rights organisation the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) has written to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers seeking "urgent clarification" on the Tories' plans. CAJ director Brian Gormally warned that if the Act was repealed then it would have to be simultaneously re-introduced in Northern Ireland.