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Cautious welcome for Human Rights Commission Announcement

5 May, 2004

Sinn Féin Bairbre de Brún has given a 'cautious welcome' to today's announcement by the British government on the future of the Human Rights Commission. Ms Brún said:

'In our discussions with the British and Irish governments we put to them a package of proposals and measures for reconstructing the Commission. We will judge today's announcement in light of our proposals, and whether it has the potential to return the Commission to the vision set out for it in the Good Friday Agreement.'

'The reality, as Gerry Adams said in his Ard Fheis speech in February, is that the Human Rights Commission has been in a mess for some considerable time and the Chief Commissioner had to go.

"Sinn Féin has been consistently raising our serious concerns about the litany of problems surrounding the North's Human Rights Commission with the British and Irish governments for over two years.

"The deep flaws within the Commission and its obvious failures have led to a fundamental lack of public confidence in its ability to independently and effectively champion human rights issues.

"In all of our discussions we have argued for a comprehensive reconstruction by the British government to restore vital public confidence in this key body.

"This requires an independent appointment process, additional investigative powers and additional resources. In particular the appointments process should be based on the Paris Principles which are the minimal international standards that govern such institutions. Only a representative Commission can command support from across the community it serves and meet the goals envisaged for it under the Good Friday Agreement.

Commenting on the statement of commitment today to a broadly based Forum on the Bill of Rights Bairbre de Brun said:

"We and others have been calling for such a development for some time. There is now a heavy onus on all political parties to engage with this development alongside civic society to progress the creation of the Bill of Rights. It is essential that no party is allowed to veto this process by non participation." ENDS

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