Republished from The Guardian –
Belfast-based human rights organisation says Conservative government’s plans to ditch HRA will also violate international treaty
Scrapping the Human Rights Act would be a breach of the Good Friday agreement that sealed the peace process in Northern Ireland, a Belfast-based human rights organisation has said.
The Conservative government’s plans to ditch the HRA would also violate an international treaty as the agreement in 1998 was an accord between two sovereign states – the UK and the Irish Republic, according to the committee on the administration of justice.
The CAJ (Committee for Administration of Justice) is seeking an urgent meeting with Theresa Villiers – who was re-appointed by David Cameron as Northern Ireland secretary in his new cabinet – about the threat to the HRA.
In a letter to Villiers, the CAJ’s director in Northern Ireland, Brian Gormally, points out that European human rights law was incorporated into the 1998 agreement.
He says article 2 of an annex to the Good Friday agreement binds the UK internationally to the multi-party deal, which was endorsed in joint referenda on both sides of the Irish border in May 1998; and, after it was ratified, both governments lodged the agreement as a treaty with the United Nations.
Gormally notes that in the section of the agreement guaranteeing the rights of minorities, the British government commits to “complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European convention on human rights, with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the convention, including power for the courts to overrule assembly legislation on the grounds of inconsistency”.
This part of the agreement is going to be used, for example, by campaigners who are seeking to overturn the ban in Northern Ireland on gay marriage, a challenge that has been blocked by the assembly in Belfast but will now be taken to the European courts.
The CAJ director says any move to tamper with or dump the HRA would undermine Northern Ireland’s fragile peace settlement.
“The secretary of state should urgently clarify the government’s position as to whether it intends to breach the Belfast/Good Friday agreement in this way. Such a step would make the UK an international outlaw and significantly roll back the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.”
Gormally stresses that the Human Rights Act and and the European court of human rights, and states’ compliance with them, had nothing to do with EU membership.
Founded in 1981, the CAJ monitors human rights abuses by the state and the security forces in Northern Ireland.