25. Memorandum from the Ulster
Human Rights Watch
The United Kingdom Human Rights Commission (UKHRC)
should be entrusted with essential functions such as:
fostering a sound human rights culture
based on fundamental principles and democracy;
developing expertise so as to adapt human
rights within the context of the United Kingdom;
educating and training in order to promote
a human rights culture and favour the implementation of human
rights and fundamental freedoms in the UK.
Other functions such as advising, assisting
people, bringing legal proceedings, etc should be left to other
The attribution of functions to the UKHRC should
be guided according to the principle of separation of powers.
This would prevent the UKHRC becoming a kind of autonomous body
making rules and at the same time acting on the grounds of these
The UKHRC would exercise its power under the
control of the JCHR. The purpose would be to ensure that the UKHRC
operates within its remits and to assess its work.
The UKHRC should give priority to the functions
research and expertise: defining
the democratic framework in which human rights are to be developed
within the UK; determining the principles on which human rights
should be developed and how they should be implemented within
fostering a human rights culture which
takes into account the historical heritage of the UK;
education and training.
There should be a single body with jurisdiction
extending to all parts of the UK in order to maintain the unity
of the nation.
Separate bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland should be either extensions of the main body or should
work under the authority of the central body.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
(NIHRC) should be subordinated to the UKHRC. In any matter of
importance dealt with by the NIHRC, the final decision should
belong to the UKHRC.
The work of the UKHRC could relate to that of
other specialist commissions. The UKHRC would be able to deal
with the fundamental issues relating to functions exercised by
these existing bodies; principles, culture etc.
The issues relating to equality could be dealt
with by the UKHRC if related to questions of principle.
(a) By the executive or the parliament.
(b) By the Government.
(c) To regional parliaments and Westminster.
(d) Double control by local authorities and Westminster.
Since the UKHRC would concentrate on functions
identified in the answer to question 3, staff and finance could
The danger of giving powers, for example to
draw up codes of practice as well as to conduct legal proceedings,
is that a poweful autonomous body may be created which could influence
the development of human rights issues without proper accountability.
Separation of powers should prevail between
the power to issue guidelines and recommendations for human rights
issues, and the power to act upon these guidelines and recommendations.
If we are to allocate these different powers,
the division should be reflected as follows
the UKHRC should have the power to
conduct research, issue codes of practice, and engage in a range
of activities designed to heighten awareness of human rights issues;
other bodies could be entrusted if necessary
with the powers to conduct investigations, require people to provide
information, issue notices requiring people to cease conduct considered
to be unlawful, conduct legal proceedings, assist other parties
to legal proceedings.
The UKHRC should have the power to conduct research
and issue guidelines and recommendations concerning human rights
and fundamental freedoms as well as raising awareness of these
The issues of human rights and fundamental freedoms
are related to the constitution of the UK and as such must be
dealt with at the Westminster level.
4 February 2002