Farry welcomes progress report on Bill of Rights

Alliance Party Justice and Human Rights Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has welcomed the publication by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission of a Progress Report on the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

Dr Farry stated:

“I am pleased that the Commission have taken a further step towards producing their final advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

“The Bill of Rights is one of the main outstanding areas in the Agreement. But perversely, there are some parties that would like the Commission to put its feet up for the rest of the year, and leave everything until a new one can be appointed.

“The Commission has considerable expertise itself, but has also drawn heavily upon international practice and advice from the Council of Europe. It has consulted widely across the community. The political opponents of the Commission should take note of the strong levels of support for it voiced right across the community, including for it to proceed with its advice even if the political parties are unable to reach agreement.

“There is much food for thought in the Progress Report, and it does require much study and consideration of other human rights documents.

“Alliance can endorse some of the progressive moves in this document, but there are areas where we would have concern.

“Some of the positive developments include:

· stating that rights go along with responsibilities;

· recognising that non-state bodies and individuals have duties, as well as the state;

· mainstreaming human rights enforcement through the existing court system; and

· accepting that people should not be classified into two blocs against their will as part of necessary equality monitoring measures.

Areas where Alliance has concern, include:

· the absence of specific measures reflecting rights to live free from sectarianism, and to have choices to mix and integrate protected by the state;

· the entrenchment of segregated education; and

· the elevation of two specific community identities above all others.

“There are also some immediate implications for Government from this report. Clearly, the Commission feel that the Government has not been fulfilling its duties by replacing commissioners as they have resigned. This is hampering their work.

“Failing to take the necessary action in a timely manner does constitute political interference. The Government does have an onus to immediately move to fill vacancies. If it is already recruiting for the Equality Commission, then why not the Human Rights Commission?”

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