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Support for Human Rights Commission appointments depends of delivery

16 June, 2005

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has said that today's announcement on new appointments to the North's Human Rights Commission "will be judged on its commitment to deliver on the original expectations of the Good Friday Agreement if it is to command widespread public support".

She continued:

"Seven years ago the Human Rights Commission was established under the Good Friday Agreement and was envisaged as being a key mechanism to advocate and protect human rights, particularly in a society emerging from a protracted conflict.

"The reasons why the previous Human Rights Commission failed to command confidence are many but were essentially around the Commission‚s approach to key areas around the Bill of Rights process, its lack of powers and resources and most significantly, the British governments failure to appoint a representative commission.

"It is therefore essential that any newly emerging Commission sets out to deliver on the vision which the Good Friday Agreement tasked it to achieve. For its part, the British government must, as a priority, provide the Commission with the gambit of powers and resources required by the Commission to enable it to deliver on the daunting but crucial task of forthrightly protecting human rights in our society.

"Sinn Féin is opposed to political appointments to the Human Rights Commission as this results in political dog fights rather than the Commission acting as a champion of Human Rights. Given the very clear political make-up of a number of newly appointed Commissioners the new Chief Commissioner, Monica McWilliams, will face a massive challenge particularly with the appointment of Jonathan Bell who has opposed human rights." ENDS

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