UK Human Rights Commissions call for Northern Ireland Bill of Rights

16 September 2010

Today (16 September 2010), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will hold its annual conference in Belfast. The conference will focus on the future of human rights in the UK.

In advance of the conference the three UK National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) have issued a joint statement calling for the implementation of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The Joint statement from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Great Britain, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission reads:

“The three UK National Human Rights Institutions (N.I, Scotland and Great Britain) agree that the establishment of a UK Commission to investigate the possible creation of a British Bill of Rights must not delay the process of implementing a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland”

Professor Monica McWilliams Chief Commissioner of the NIHRC said:

“A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland should be given the attention it deserves and not mixed up in a wider UK debate. On this issue the three United Nations accredited national human rights institutions are totally agreed. The Northern Ireland process was established by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its completion remains crucial to guaranteeing future peace and democratic stability. The new Westminster Government must now bring forward the necessary legislation to uphold promises made to the people of Northern Ireland and to fulfil treaty obligations agreed with the Government of the Republic of Ireland.”

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the SHRC, said:

“There has been so much time, effort and constructive thinking put into the Bill of Rights process for Northern Ireland by so many people that everything must be done to ensure a positive outcome. This further advance of human rights for all is not only what the people of Northern Ireland deserve after so many years but would also enrich the public debate within the United Kingdom and serve as an inspiration to so many people around the world, particularly in conflict situations.”

Trevor Philips, Chair of the EHRC said:

“We fully support the conclusion of the process in Northern Ireland as soon as possible, in order that a robust Bill of Rights can be enacted to reflect their particular circumstances. We also believe it is important to consider the implications of devolution in the development of any Bill of Rights for the UK as the legal and constitutional issues involved are different in all four nations.”

Ends

Further information

NIHRC: Please contact Claire Martin, Press and Public Affairs Worker on (028) 9024 3987 (office), 07717 731 873 (mobile).

SHRC: Please contact: Jenifer Johnston on 0141 229 0888

EHRC: Please contact Zena Ambrose, Senior Press Officer, 020 3117 0266 (office), out of hours duty press officer 07767 272 818 (mobile).

Notes to the Editor

  1. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (the Commission) was established in 1999, by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, to protect and promote the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland. The powers and functions of the Commission include reviewing law and practice, advising the government, promoting an awareness of human rights and taking cases to court.
  2. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will hold its Annual Conference today 16 September 2010 at the Belfast Waterfront. The conference will start at 8.45am and all media are welcome to attend. Further information about the conference including speakers and the programme.
  3. There are three human rights Commissions in the UK - the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Great Britain. This statement represents the views of all three.
  4. The NIHRC, EHRC and SHRC are the three National Human Rights Institutions for the UK accredited by the United Nations. 
  5. On 10 December 2008, the NIHRC in accordance with Paragraph 4, in the Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity section, of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and section 69(7) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, provided Government with advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
  6. The Northern Ireland Office Consultation on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland ended on 31 March 2010.