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Northern Ireland: Human rights appeal to Biden ahead of St Patrick's day meeting

Call to ensure protection of human rights in Northern Ireland is key part of US-UK trade negotiations

UK government plan to scrap Human Rights Act would ‘take wrecking ball’ to its human rights commitments set out in Good Friday Agreement

‘The United States has been a welcome guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement in the past and we are asking them to assist again now’ - Patrick Corrigan

Amnesty International has called on the US government to ensure that the protection of human rights in Northern Ireland is part of US-UK trade deal negotiations.

In a briefing provided to key figures in the Biden Administration ahead of a round of political meetings and events in Washington DC to mark St Patrick’s Day, Amnesty International in both Ireland and the UK has joined with human rights and civil society organisations on both sides of the border to warn that UK government plans to scrap the Human Rights Act would seriously undermine the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.

The briefing, signed by fourteen organisations including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Committee on the Administration of Justice, says that the UK government’s proposals to replace the Human Rights Act amount to a “fundamental change in the balance between human rights protections and executive power in Northern Ireland.” The briefing warns:

“If implemented, they will significantly impact on the ability of people in Northern Ireland to protect their human rights and seek effective redress when their rights are violated. The UK government’s proposals raise potential problems under the ECHR itself, as well as under the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol. If implemented, they will significantly undermine the Good Friday Agreement. In our view these proposals are unnecessary, unhelpful and dangerous to the peace in Northern Ireland.”

The groups highlight a range of human rights concerns about UK government proposals, including plans to prevent accountability in cases related to the legacy of the conflict, which they say would result in a “significant diminution of rights” in Northern Ireland. The groups argue that this would place the UK government in breach of its commitments under the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement and the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol.

In the briefing, the civil society groups from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland tell the Biden Administration:

“It would be useful if the US Government makes clear now, that in any future trade negotiations with the United States, diminutions in rights are a barrier to the successful conclusion of a trade agreement.”

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Director of Amnesty International UK, one of the signatories to the briefing, said:

“We are deeply concerned that the UK government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act will undermine decades of work in building peace and human rights protections for people in Northern Ireland.

“If implemented, the government’s plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act would amount to taking a wrecking ball to its human rights and equality commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and the Protocol.

“London appears not to be listening to these concerns when raised in Belfast, so we are asking the Biden Administration to ensure that they are echoed in Washington DC. The United States has been a welcome guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement in the past and we are asking them to assist again now.”

 

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Brexit and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement March 2022.docx