UN Commission on Human Rights to be told of UK government's lack of response on Northern Ireland

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In Geneva today, the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will hear from National Human Rights Institutions around the world about the key human rights concerns affecting their countries. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will highlight in its address, major concerns about the response of the UK Government to a range of issues, including its support to the Commission itself.

Acknowledging that the most serious and systemic violations of human rights in Northern Ireland continue to be those perpetrated by non-state actors, the Commission goes on to describe a range of issues about which the Government must be brought to task. Prime among these is the need for international, independent, judicial inquiries to be held into the findings of the Cory Report and others of collusion occurring in the 1980s and 1990s between the security forces and Loyalist paramilitary organisations.

The deaths of six individuals in the past two years in prisons in Northern Ireland and the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers in maximum security prisons will also be highlighted to the UN. The Government’s reluctance to change this practice and its failure to ratify the UN’s 1990 Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families give further cause for concern, particularly in light of recent indications that the UK Government will not, despite its commitment to do so, be issuing a National Action Plan Against Racism.

The Commission is particularly critical of the lack of response from the UK Government to its statutory Review of Powers, submitted three years ago, which calls for the Northern Ireland Commission to be given investigatory powers and resources compliant with the UN’s guidelines for the operation of National Human Rights Institutions, the Paris Principles. The decision by Government not to replace Commissioners who have left for a variety of reasons over the past 18 months is also criticised in the NIHRC presentation.

Professor Brice Dickson said:

“It is regrettable that, while in some respects there has been positive progress in establishing systems to protect human rights in Northern Ireland, there have been alarming failures by Government to introduce measures to address critical problems. It is disturbing to note that there are still over 2,000 unsolved murders dating from before the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998 which have not been effectively investigated. Independent, public, judicial inquiries are also urgently needed into the findings of an independent review, of evidence of collusion between the agents of the state and paramilitaries.

In the context of ongoing human rights violations it is all the more disappointing that the Government has not given the support we might reasonably expect to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the only institution of its kind in the UK.”



1. Professor Brice Dickson is attending the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, currently being held in Geneva. Today, under Agenda Item 18(b), he will address the Commission on the human rights issues of greatest concern to the NIHRC. A copy of the full text of his submission is attached.

2. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is accredited as a Sub-National Human Rights Institution with the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs, and is the only UK institution making representation to the Commission. 34 National Human Rights Institutions will make similar addresses to the Commission on issues affecting their countries, including the Irish Human Rights Commission.

3. Meetings of the European National Institutions and of the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights<

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