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Independent Review of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

19 Sept 2023

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (the Commission) welcomes the publication by the UK Government of an Independent Review. The Commission has accepted all of the report’s recommendations and is implementing those within its control.

An Independent Review of the Commission was completed in December 2022 following direction by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The report concluded that as a result of an insufficient core budget the “NIHRC is struggling to fulfil its statutory mandate” with particular attention drawn to three areas for which “delivery cannot currently be considered fully successful” these are: the duty to “promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights in Northern Ireland; investigatory powers; and legal assistance powers.”

The Commission was first envisaged by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998. Since then its mandate has increased in complexity, but resources have not been commensurate to these responsibilities. This has acutely affected the Commission’s fitness for purpose as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).

In 2021, the United Nations deferred the Commission’s re-accreditation as an A-status NHRI due to concerns over insufficient funding and a restricted capacity to operate. It described the situation as “very serious and time sensitive” and “strongly recommended that an improved and sustainable position” be provided by the UK Government before the end of the deferral period. The final deferral of the Commission’s reaccreditation is October 2023.

The publication of the Independent Review and a response from the UK Government is therefore timely. The Commission will continue to work with the Northern Ireland Office to ensure the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible.


Access the UK Government Response to the Independent Review of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission 2022 here

Access the Independent Review of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission here

Read the GANHRI Report and Recommendations of the Session of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) in relation to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s accreditation here.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The Commission is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), with responsibilities set out under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

The Commission operates independently and in compliance with UN General Assembly resolution 48/134 (the ‘Paris Principles’) on National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI).

The Commission’s duties and powers to protect and promote human rights are set out in legislation, primarily in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This has subsequently been enhanced by the Justice and Security Act 2007 on issues relating to legal and investigation powers. The NIHRC has also been issued with mandates around the rights of people with disabilities and more recently the role of the Dedicated Mechanism to monitor Article 2 of the Windsor Framework. In May 2022, the UK Government and the NIHRC agreed in principle to an independent review of the NIHRC. An independent review was completed and submitted to the UK Government in December 2022.

About the reaccreditation process

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) is

mandated by the United Nations to evaluate the work of National Human

Rights Institutions around the world and thereafter designate their status. GANHRI was due to complete its 5-year periodic review of the Commission in 2021 and highlighted a significant concern about the future financial footing of the organisation. This resulted in the unprecedented step of refusing to reaccredit the Commission with ‘A’ status recognition and instead deferring its decision. Maintaining ‘A’ status ensures Northern Ireland will continue to have independent representation before the UN Human Rights Council or international Human Rights Treaty Bodies, which are responsible for holding the UK to account for its human rights record.

In March 2023, GANHRI’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) confirmed that, in accordance with Article 14.1 of the GANHRI Statute, the deferral decision shall be limited to a period of two years. As such, this is the last possible deferral of the review of the NIHRC and the SCA will reach a recommendation in relation to the re-accreditation of the NIHRC in the SCA’s second session in October2023. For further information on accreditation please see:

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