PRESS RELEASE, EMBARGO: 3.00pm on WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2002
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION PUBLISHES ANNUAL REPORT
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission published its third
Annual Report today.
The report gives details of the Commission's work from April
2001 to March 2002. It provides an account of work carried out
on the Bill of Rights project, the right to education, casework,
investigations, policy development and the establishment of a
Joint Committee with the Irish Human Rights Commission.
The protection and promotion of human rights within policy-making
and the drafting of legislation have been a strong focus for
the Commission. During the year the Commission sought, successfully
in many cases, to develop acceptance of international human rights
principles within the Northern Ireland Assembly, Northern Ireland
Executive Departments and the Westminster Parliament.
Professor Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner, said:
"This last year has been an exceptionally busy one for
Commissioners and staff across all areas of our work. I believe
we have continued to demonstrate a clear vision and a definite
strategic direction in favour of the promotion and protection
of the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland. More remains
to be done, not least as regards acquiring more powers for the
Commission itself, but we are well on the road to the creation
of an appropriate human rights culture throughout Northern Ireland."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Media contacts: Prof Brice Dickson, tel 028 9024 3987 or 07901
and Ms Paddy Sloan, tel 028 9024 3987 or 07967 148537.
1. The Annual Report will be laid in Parliament on Wednesday
23 October by the Minister with responsibility for human rights,
Des Browne MP.
2. A summary of the Commission's main activities in 2001-02,
is appended. The full text of the Annual Report can be obtained
from the Commission's website: www.nihrc.org <http://www.nihrc.org/>
(from 3.00pm today). A copy, under embargo, can be obtained
by email or hard copy from the Commission (tel: 028 9024 3987).
3. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is a statutory
body set up by section 68 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
It became operational on 1 March 1999 and has its office at Temple
Court, 39 North Street, Belfast. The Commission aims to protect
and promote the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland
and is recognised as a National Human Rights Institution by the
4. The functions of the Commission are:
* to advise the governments in Belfast and London on measures
required to be taken to enhance the protection of human rights
in Northern Ireland,
* to promote an awareness and understanding of the importance
of human rights,
* to investigate alleged abuses of human rights, and
* to consider taking cases to court where there appears
to be a human rights violation.
5. During 2001-02 there were 13 members of the Commission, who
were appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Two Commissioners resigned in September 2002 making the present
number of Commissioners 11. The Chief Commissioner, who works
full-time for the Commission, is Prof Brice Dickson. At present
the Commission employs 15 staff.
Amongst the notable achievements of the Human Rights Commission
in the year ending 31 March 2002 were the following:
* The publication of the Commission's draft Bill of Rights
for Northern Ireland, in the form of a consultation document
entitled Making a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. More
than 300 responses had been received by the end of the year.
* 583 individuals were trained as facilitators in furthering
the Bill of Rights work of the Commission.
* The submission of 76 responses to draft policy and
legislative proposals sent to the Commission for comment, including
several responses to the Justice (NI) Bill.
* The submission of eight responses to proposals on policing,
including draft Force orders on the Use of Force, the Role of
Defence Lawyers and the Handling of Threats, and the draft PSNI
Code of Ethics.
* The handling of 516 telephone inquiries concerning
alleged human rights abuses. 54 applications for assistance
were dealt with during the year and assistance of some kind was
provided in seven of these.
* Co-hosting, with the Department of Education, a major
conference on "Human Rights in Education".
* The publication of a major investigation into the care
of children detained in juvenile justice centres in Northern
Ireland - In Our Care: Promoting the Rights of Children in Custody
* The publication of reports on Enhancing the Rights
of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Northern Ireland (August
2001) and Enhancing the Rights of Older People in Northern Ireland
* The publication of a research report on the methods
used by the police for recording the use of baton rounds in Northern
Ireland (May 2001).
* The establishment and development of a Joint Committee
with the Irish Human Rights Commission.
* The submission of written and oral reports on human
rights in Northern Ireland to the UN's Commission on Human Rights
and the UN's Human Rights Committee.
* The hosting of visits by Sir Nigel Rodley (UN Special
Rapporteur on Torture), Professor Paul Hunt (Member of the UN's
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), Mr Olara
Otunnu (UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict),
Professor Jaap Doek (Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights
of the Child) and Judge Albie Sachs (member of South Africa's
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
39 North Street
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