A UK Bill of Rights Commission set up by the coalition government is currently working to:-
‘investigate the creation of a UK Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in UK law, and protects and extend our liberties.’
As part of their discussions the Commission have asked potentially worrying questions such as whether the Human Rights Act should be replaced, and has talked about models of a UK Bill of Rights that could, in effect, take the place of a distinct Northern Ireland Bill of Rights.
The Human Rights Act (HRA) incorporated the European Convention of Human Rights into domestic legislation in the UK as provided for in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement also provided for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights which would outline rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.
Therefore the Human Rights Act was one of the fundamental human rights protections guaranteed in the Belfast/Good Friday Peace Agreement and a specific Northern Ireland Bill of Rights was the vehicle by which additional rights were to be developed for the people of Northern Ireland.
Any discussions by the Commission should recognise these two important facts and ensure that their recommendations do nothing to undermine existing human rights in the HRA or the long standing process of developing a distinct Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland that has widespread public support.
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