Sinn Féin - On Your Side

British government must give Human Rights Commission the powers it requires

17 November, 2004

Sinn Féin Equality, Human Rights and Women's Spokesperson South Down MLA Catríona Ruane has called on the British government to introduce the proper range of powers required by the Human Rights Commission.

The call comes in advance of hearings being carried by the United Nations Committee on Torture this week which will scrutinise the British government's treaty obligations and in many instances, its failure to comply with human rights and equality issues in the North of Ireland.

Ms Ruane said:

"It is unacceptable that six years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed that that the Human Rights Commission has again had to make representation to the United Nations about the British government's obstruction of its work by its refusal to provide the Commission with the appropriate powers.

"Issues such as state collusion, the continuing use of non-jury courts, plastic bullets and repressive legislation should have been relegated to the dustbin as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. Yet the British government is eroding individual and collective rights by maintaining them.

"Sinn Féin raised these and issues such as the need for accountable and representative policing and criminal justice systems with the United Nations during its last hearing and only last week we met with the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner to voice our concerns across similar matters.

"Sinn Féin has consistently called on the British government to provide the Human Rights Commission with the proper range of powers it requires to fulfil its remit to protect and promote human rights in an effective way. This failure has plagued the Commission since its inception. The danger is that any incoming Commission will inherit many of the same problems.

"One of the issues being tabled at the UN is the situation of women prisoners held at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre which the Commission cannot access because it does not have this specific power. How can a Human Rights Commission protect human rights in such circumstances when access is blocked by the Prison Service and it has no power in its own right to overturn such decisions? Without these basic powers any incoming Human Rights Commission will be undermined before it begins." ENDS

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