Conservative plans to water down the Human Rights Act – to prevent prosecutions of soldiers accused of murders in Northern Ireland – will make the UK a pariah, the party has been warned.
The move could also lead to Britain leaving the European Convention on Human Rights altogether, at huge cost to the country’s reputation, legal experts said.
The backlash came after Boris Johnson pledged to end what the Tories call “unfair trials”, by banning inquests from returning verdicts of unlawful killings for deaths during the Troubles.
It would involve amending the HRA – the key legal route for families seeking to prove British state involvement in killings – to exclude any death in Northern Ireland before it came into force in October 2000.
But Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, now running as an independent, attacked a confusing announcement that he suggested was simply “electioneering”.
“I am very sensitive to soldiers not being harassed about events that happened a long time ago, but the rule of law has to be upheld as well,” he told The Independent.
Amnesty International said: “All victims have the right to an independent investigation – that is a cornerstone of the rule of law throughout the world. “
And Mark Stephens, a solicitor specialising in human rights, said: “This sounds like clickbait for Tory voters.
“The UK has been a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights since 1958 and if we want to remain part of that convention any amendment of domestic legislation will have to be compliant with it.”
The Tory pledge follows a long campaign by veterans’ groups which have protested that the law is being abused to hound retired soldiers years after the events in question took place.
But, under Article 2 of the ECHR, nations are obliged to carry out an effective official investigation into deaths where lethal force had been used against individuals by agents of the state.
Investigations using the inquest system have been used by families to try to prove that their loved ones were killed unlawfully.
Mr Grieve added: “If we seek to stop inquests, we may fall foul of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. And if we seek to interfere with prosecutions, well, I’m staggered that any government would consider it.”
He warned it could lead to leaving the ECHR altogether, adding: “That would be a very bad destination indeed, because we are one of the leading countries seeking to apply it to improve standards, not just in Europe, but around the world.”
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, added: “It is essential that no-one, including members of the Armed Forces, is above the law.
“Yet in preventing former soldiers from being prosecuted over killings and other abuses that took place during the Northern Ireland conflict, that is exactly where this would place them.”
Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign affairs minister, also criticised the plan, tweeting: “There is no statute of limitations, no amnesty for anyone who committed crimes in Northern Ireland.
“The law must apply to all, without exception, to achieve reconciliation.”
With many thanks to: The Independent and Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor for the original story@Rob_merrick
CONSERVATIVE | HUMAN RIGHTS ACT | NORTHERN IRELAND | EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS | BORIS JOHNSON | DOMINIC GRIEVE | AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL | THE TROUBLES | SIMON COVENEY
A HUMAN rights expert has voiced concern after the Policing Board said it was unable to renew the contract of a key advisor and admitted it can no longer fulfil its statutory obligations.
Former human rights adviser Alyson Kilpatrick, pictured above, left her post last month. Appointed in 2012, Ms Kilpatrick regularly provided expert legal opinion to the board and helped produce an annual human rights report. The policing board has a responsibility to monitor the performance of the RUC/PSNI in complying with the Human Rights Act. Human rights oversight is viewed as one of the most important functions on the board. A spokeswoman for the board has claimed it did not have the authority to renew Ms Kilpatrick’s contract.
Colin Harvey, Professor of Human Rights Law at Queens University, said it was a “very worrying development”. “Human rights guarantees remain central to the ongoing process of policing reform. The policing board has a vital role in monitoring the performance of the RUC/PSNI and in holding the chief constable to account.” The academic said a solution needs to be found. “This situation needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to ensure that the board can continue to discharge its statutory responsibilities,” he said. “This is no time to be undermining the centrality of human rights to the work of the policing service here.”
In February this year senior board figures including chairwoman Anne Connolly were given delegated authority to take decisions across a range of areas following the collapse of the Stormont institutions. Political representatives were not appointed to take their places on the board after the March assembly elections due to the political deadlock, although independent members have continued to meet in privite. Former SDLP policing board member Dolores Kelly said if officials were concerned about being unable to renew Ms Kilpatrick’s contract, they should have written to party leaders and raised it through the media. “Did they ask the Department for Justice for any dispensation? If they did not have delegated authority, did they seek it?”she said.
Former Sinn Féin policing board member Gerry Kelly (pictued above) said ” a human rights-based approach to policing is at the core of the Patten recommendations and the setting up of the PSNI”. “The human rights adviser’s contract should have been exstended at this time as it is a crucial component to the effective working of the board,” he said. “The decision not to renew the contract should be reversed.” A spokeswoman for the policing board said: “As previously stated, in the absence of a fully constituted Policing Board, it was not possible to extend the appointment period of the human rights advisor as there was no authority to do so. “As previously advised, in February 2017 the then board approved a limited programme of work (as a temporary measure) that could be progressed by the independent members in the absence of a fully constituted board. “The appointment process to fill the human rights advisor role cannot be initiated until the board is again fully constituted.” “A spokesman for the RUC/PSNI said: “This is a matter for the North of Ireland Policing Board.”
With many thanks to: Connla Young The Irish News for the original story.
Follow these links for more information: https://www.nipolicingboard.org.uk/human-rights