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Northern Ireland: Authorities must protect Professor Colin Harvey and academic freedom

Queen’s University Belfast academic targeted for discussing constitutional future of Northern Ireland

‘Academics must be able to contribute to and enrich public policy debates with their expertise and research without becoming subject to harassment’ - Patrick Corrigan

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to ensure the safety of a constitutional law academic who has been the target of a sustained campaign of hostility which has sought to intimidate him and undermine his academic standing.

Colin Harvey, a professor of human rights law in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast, has been targeted because of his participation in debates on the constitutional future of Northern Ireland, the implications for Northern Ireland of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, and the proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The campaign against Professor Harvey - who has been subjected to a years-long by elected politicians, media commentators and online political activists - has escalated in recent weeks, raising concerns about his safety as well as broader concerns over the ability of academics and other individuals to safely participate in public policy debates in Northern Ireland.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Director, said:

“We’re deeply concerned at this campaign of sustained hostility against Professor Harvey - something which should have no place whatsoever in our public discourse. Academics must be able to contribute to and enrich public policy debates with their expertise and research without becoming subject to harassment.

“Professor Harvey is a recognised expert on human rights and constitutional law, but no-one - whatever their expertise or standing - should have to bear the brunt of harassment when taking part in public debate.

“We’ll be writing to Brandon Lewis to share our concerns and demand that the UK, as the state authority responsible for upholding the right to freedom of expression, including academic freedom, takes appropriate steps to guarantee this right for Professor Colin Harvey as for everyone else in Northern Ireland.”

Amnesty’s statement in full is available here.

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