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Theresa May threat to withdraw from European Convention would mean ‘ripping up Good Friday Agreement’

Responding to a speech made by the Home Secretary Theresa May today in which she set out her view that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“Theresa May’s proposal to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights would mean ripping up the Good Friday Agreement, on which peace in Northern Ireland has been built.

“The Home Secretary’s proposal is not just foolish, it is downright dangerous. To undermine an international peace agreement, on which eighteen years of peace has been based, is reckless in the extreme.

“The European Convention on Human Rights is a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement, and has given confidence to people in Northern Ireland that their rights will be protected equally, whatever their religious or political views.

“Given the history of political discrimination and mistrust in policing in Northern Ireland, binding international human rights obligations have been crucial in building and bolstering public confidence in these key structures post-Troubles.

“The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by the people in referenda on both sides of the Irish border and the Irish government is a co-signatory, alongside the UK, to the Treaty. Any scrapping of international human rights commitments could have serious implications for Northern Ireland’s peace settlement.”

The 1998 Belfast / Good Friday agreement obliged the UK to incorporate the European Convention of Human Rights into law in Northern Ireland, which was subsequently done through the Human Rights Act. The Northern Ireland Assembly can only make laws which are compatible with the Human Rights Act, a key safeguard in the region.

New policing arrangements in Northern Ireland, introduced after the Good Friday Agreement, are also heavily reliant on adherence to the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. Trust in the new policing structures in post-Troubles Northern Ireland is seen as one of the key success stories of the peace process.

Write to your Northern Ireland Assembly candidates and ask them to defend the Human Rights Act.

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