No good news as Stormont's three-year absence takes toll on human rights
17 Dec 2019
No good news as Stormont’s three-year absence takes toll on human rights
The absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive has left outstanding human rights issues to ‘drift indefinitely’, a new report by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission states.
The Commission will launch its Annual Statement on Tuesday afternoon. The report highlights a lack of progress on human rights in Northern Ireland in 2019.
At the launch, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will give an update on poverty in the UK – an issue which is also addressed in the report.
Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, stated:
“The absence of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly has practical consequences that extend beyond politics. The crisis around healthcare provision is concerning for everyone. Rising poverty and homeless figures in Northern Ireland give cause for much concern. 205 people who were homeless in Northern Ireland have died in a recent 18-month period. This is more than a quarter of all homeless deaths in the UK during that period. Behind every death is an individual story and a wider tale of society’s failure to properly protect vulnerable people.
“Our 2019 Annual Statement demonstrates that not one human rights concern has been effectively resolved in Northern Ireland. Whilst we welcome the movement on human rights compliant laws around termination of pregnancy, the introduction of same sex marriage, and redress for victims of historical institutional abuse, so many other issues affecting victim rights, housing and healthcare remain unresolved. The UK Government has a legal obligation to tackle these outstanding human rights issues, outlined in today’s report, without hesitation.”
Welcoming the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, to the event, Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, added:
“We are delighted to welcome the UN Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston, to this year’s launch to share an update on poverty in the UK. Philip Alston’s own report on poverty in the UK, presented to the UN Human Rights Council in July, shone a light on the extent of poverty and inequality in one of the richest countries in the world. The report was highly critical of recent social security reforms and their impact on individuals and families. Many of our findings in this year’s human rights statement chime with his report. Our recent cumulative impact assessment of tax and social security reforms showed that it was people on the lowest incomes who were shouldering the largest burden. We now wait to see the impact of the new government in Westminster and we hope the ongoing Stormont Talks will bring about the much needed restoration of the N.I Executive.”
UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston commented:
“The re-election of the Conservative Party Government was based in part on a campaign promising the end of austerity. In addition to more nurses and police, this must include the reform of Universal Credit and the restoration of the broader safety net.”
The 2019 Annual Statement can be accessed here.
Notes to Editors:
1. The launch of the 2019 Annual Statement will take place in the Long Gallery, Stormont, from 12-2pm on 17 December 2019. The event is being sponsored by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Robin Newton MBE, MLA. All media are welcome to attend.
2. Professor Philip Alston is the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council, and undertakes the following main tasks: (1) conducting research and analysis to be presented in separate thematic reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly; (2) undertaking country visits and reporting on the situation in those countries in relation to the concerns of the mandate; (3) sending letters to governments and other relevant entities in situations in which violations of human rights of people living in extreme poverty are alleged to have taken place. Further information at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/poverty/pages/srextremepovertyindex.aspx
3. The Annual Statement is a report assessing the state of human rights in Northern Ireland, which is published each year. You can read the full document here.
4. The 2019 Annual Statement sets out - ‘red light’ issues that require immediate action by the UK Government, NI Executive, or relevant public authorities. A red category highlights that the issue may be an ongoing violation or abuse of human rights within NI. The ‘red light’ issues are as follows:
Right to Life
Pg. 26 - Conflict related investigations: transitional justice and individual cases
Pg. 29 - Legacy inquests and inquiries
Right to liberty and security of person
Pg. 31 - The remand of children
Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment
Pg. 32 - Physical punishment of children
Freedom from slavery
Pg. 33 - Child, early and forced marriage
Pg. 34 - Children missing from care
Pg. 35 - Child sexual exploitation
Right to fair trial and the administration of justice
Pg. 36 - Age of criminal responsibility
Pg. 37 - Compensation for a miscarriage of justice
Right to private and family life
Pg. 38 - Access to financial support for unmarried couples
Right to an adequate standard of living and to social security
Pg. 39 - Anti-poverty strategy
Right to health
Pg. 40 - Termination of pregnancy
Pg. 43 - Relationship, sexuality and gender identity education