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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission express concern on the limited action to progress human rights

11 Dec 2023

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has published its Annual Human Rights Statement, detailing human rights developments in Northern Ireland throughout the year.

The Commission’s annual statement, published to mark Human Rights Day (10 December), assesses how the NI Executive, relevant public authorities and the UK Government have taken action over the past 12 months to address human rights issues in Northern Ireland. This year’s report shows profound areas of concern, many of which have been amplified by the cost-of-living crisis and a lack of significant action to address ongoing issues.

Over the course of the year the Commission has provided expert advice to the UK Government regarding its human rights obligations. In recent months, the Commission has exercised its legal powers most notably in its own motion challenge against the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Act 2023, and in the judicial review of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023.

Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Alyson Kilpatrick, stated:

This year, we have responded to an ever-increasing number and range of issues that have threatened fundamental rights. These include NHS waiting lists, cost of living, a range of children’s rights issues such as the right to be free from child sexual exploitation, and access to reproductive healthcare. There is no doubt that the stagnation created by the suspension of the NI Assembly and NI Executive is an exacerbating factor in the lack of progress.

“It has been a busy year for the Commission as we have exercised our legal powers, which is often a measure of last resort but it is essential if we are to protect the fundamental rights of all people in NI.

“This year is also the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Whilst we are in extremely difficult times for human rights, it is important to remember that they are also the solutions and the ultimate tools for preventing human rights abuses. It is absolutely critical that we use this moment to build a renewed consensus on the power of taking a human rights-based approach for the problems facing us today and those yet to come.”

The report was launched at Stormont, hosted by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, and featured a keynote address from the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Ms Mary Lawlor. Ms Lawlor highlighted the successes achieved by human rights defenders in the 25 years since the UN Declaration on human rights defenders was adopted in 1998. She spoke about how they have changed laws, secured the release of people from prison, provided humanitarian aid, and exposed corruption. However, she also highlighted grave risks faced by such people, including in Northern Ireland.


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For the full report click here: Annual Statement 2023

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