Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission


  The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has decided to carry out an investigation into the human rights of individuals and communities affected by parades. The power to conduct investigations is conferred on the Human Rights Commission by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, section 69(8).

  The focus of this investigation is on the rights of all those affected by the parades issue in Northern Ireland. The Commission recognises that there are diverse and sometimes competing human rights involved in the marching issue—the right to freedom of expression being balanced against the rights to dignity, privacy, safety and to liberty of movement.

  The first stage of this investigation will identify international human rights pertaining to individuals and communities affected by the parades issue. This will include an examination of international human rights standards on policing.

  The Drumcree/Garvaghy Road area has been the site of considerable community tension over successive years around the marching issue. The Commission will focus on the experience of people living in the Garvaghy Road and Portadown areas and of those seeking to parade as a case study to monitor how the operation of human rights standards works out in practice.

  The remit of this investigation is to:

    —  carry out an investigation into international human rights which pertain to individuals and communities affected by the parades issue;

    —  investigate the practice of those rights through a case study;

    —  identify the responsibilities of the State towards its citizens in relation to those rights;

    —  carry out research into the impact of the conflict over marching on the human rights and daily lives of people residing in affected areas through a case study on the experience of individuals and communities, both Nationalist, Unionist and other, in the Garvaghy Road and Portadown areas;

    —  identify main concerns of people in those areas in relation to dignity, safety, freedom from fear and liberty of movement, freedom of expression;

    —  assess the extent to which the state's obligations to protect rights in those areas are being met;

    —  examine policing policy and practice in the area in the light of international human rights standards on policing; and

    —  make any appropriate recommendations for the better promotion and protection of human rights in Northern Ireland as appear to the Commission to be necessary or expedient in light of its findings.

  The investigation will shortly be announced in the press and is scheduled to commence in May and report in autumn 2000.

  The conduct of the investigation will be supervised by two Commissioners, Ms Angela Hegarty and the Reverend Harold Good.

  Through its investigations, the Commission aims to make recommendations to Government aimed at ensuring the better protection of human rights in Northern Ireland.

  It is intended that each investigation will make a significant contribution to:

    —  a better understanding of human rights standards;

    —  an understanding of the application of these rights and benchmarking of best practice; and

    —  creation of a human rights discourse and good relations in Northern Ireland.

  The Human Rights Commission investigation will make an important contribution to the consultation process around the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review in respect to juvenile justice.

  Dr Linda Moore, Investigations Worker with the Commission, will be in contact in the near future to provide you with further details of the conduct of the investigation.

  The Commission looks forward to receiving your co-operation and support in carrying out this investigation.

17 May 2000

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