Northern Ireland falling behind on human rights, report says

NI Human Rights Commission lists areas neglected in absence of devolved government

The North has been without a devolved government since January 2017, and the Stormont civil servants running departments have limited decision-making powers. Photograph: Eric Luke

The North has been without a devolved government since January 2017, and the Stormont civil servants running departments have limited decision-making powers. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Northern Ireland is falling behind on human rights in a broad range of areas according to a new report from the NI Human Rights Commission.

Multiple human rights issues need immediate action to be taken by the UK government, a Stormont Executive or relevant public authorities, NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby has said.

These include law reform on access to termination of pregnancy; dealing effectively with the past, including outstanding investigations and legacy inquests; tackling child sexual exploitation; addressing the issues of children going missing from care; and the continued absence of a strategy to reduce poverty.

The North has been without a devolved government since January 2017, and the Stormont civil servants running departments have limited decision-making powers.

Mr Allamby said the second NIHRC annual statement made in the absence of devolved government indicates that outstanding issues are “profound”.

“The stark implications of the impasse are laid bare; with more issues marked red denoting potential and ongoing violations of human rights needing immediate remedy than at any time since the annual statement was first published in 2012,” he added. “This throws into sharp relief the need to restore the NI Executive and NI Assembly as soon as practicable.”

Immediate action

NIHRC has identified 12 code-red areas that require immediate action on matters relating to: right to life; right to liberty and security of the person; freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment; freedom from slavery; right to a fair trial and the administration of justice; right to private and family life; right to an adequate standard of living and to social security; and right to health.

The report says there should be no delay in dealing with failings that exist with regard to conflict related deaths; transitional justice and individual cases; and legacy inquests and inquiries.

The remand of children and physical punishment of children are also pressing concerns highlighted in the report, as are: child, early and forced marriage; child sexual exploitation; and children missing from care.

Compensation for miscarriage of justice; age of criminal responsibility; financial support for unmarried couples; an anti-poverty strategy and issues around the termination of pregnancy are also raised in the code red area of the report.

Aside from the traffic-light system code-red issues that should be addressed immediately, the report also indicates scores of code-amber areas where initial steps have been taken to resolve issues around matters such as gender equality, women in prison, and domestic and sexual violence.