CAJ notes the appointment of six new Commissioners to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), who each took up office on 1 September 2020.
CAJ hopes they will demonstrate their firm commitment to upholding international human rights standards under the leadership of the Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, not only as we attempt to emerge from the current pandemic, but also in the years to come.
Commenting on the appointments, CAJ Director, Brian Gormally, said: “There are many serious challenges ahead. The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed structural inequality in our society, with the old, the poor, the sick, the disabled, and those from an ethnic minority suffering disproportionately. This emphasises the importance of social and economic rights, which NIHRC previously recognised in its formal advice to UK government on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland (1). No doubt NIHRC will renew this commitment.
“NIHRC also has a new and vital role to play as part of the ‘dedicated mechanisms’, which were set up under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU Withdrawal Agreement to ensure there is no diminution in human rights and equality due to Brexit. We fully expect the Commission to carry out its watchdog role without fear or favour.
“Additionally, NIHRC must play an active role in another crisis created by the UK government in abandoning its commitment to the Stormont House Agreement on dealing with the past. The ‘fast-track’ approach now proposed will not be compliant with human rights mechanisms and will potentially grant impunity to soldiers and other state agents. Legislation is apparently being prepared and the Commission must call it out if, as is feared, it involves breaching the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and weakening the Human Rights Act.
“NIHRC was a creation of the peace agreement, but we need it now more than ever. We call on each of the new Commissioners to play a full part in defending the peace and the human rights on which it depends.”
Please direct media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 075 1994 1203. CAJ Director, Brian Gormally, is available for interview.