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UN slams Northern Ireland executive on abortion and 'troubles' issues

“It’s a matter of global embarrassment that Northern Ireland has been criticised by the UN over its abuse of women’s rights and failure to prioritise their health.” - Grainne Teggart

The UN Human Rights Committee has strongly criticised the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on their failings to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion law and address ‘Troubles’ related issues and has set out recommendations to address these.

The recommendations came in the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee, after it had scrutinised the human rights record of the UK government. Amnesty International gave evidence to the Committee.

Criticism of abortion laws

The Committee specifically criticised Northern Ireland’s abortion laws and the severe criminal sanctions for women forced to access unlawful abortions, which put their lives at risk.

The UN body called on the Executive to change the law to ensure access to abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International Campaign Manager, said:

“Now that the UN has echoed Amnesty’s call for urgent abortion law reform, the Executive needs to act.

“It’s a matter of global embarrassment that Northern Ireland has been criticised by the UN over its abuse of women’s rights and failure to prioritise their health.

“Women and girls deserve better. Change is long overdue and all eyes are now on the Executive.”

Criticism of failure to address ‘Troubles’ related issues

The Committee also called for the swift implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, emphasising the need for the mechanisms that are established to deal with the past to be independent and effective. The Committee also called for proper resourcing of coroners’ inquests and the PSNI to deal with legacy cases. The UN watchdog also criticised de Silva review of the murder of Pat Finucane and called for UK government to reconsider its refusal to launch a public inquiry into the solicitor’s death.

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

“The UN has been highly critical of the ongoing failure of the UK government to put in place an effective approach to addressing past human rights abuses in Northern Ireland.

“It is now time for the UK and Northern Ireland authorities to heed the calls of this expert Committee and implement the Stormont House Agreement in a manner that will finally deliver truth and justice for victims.

“Amnesty particularly welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that a Historical Inquiries Unit be established urgently and that it is given all the necessary powers, funding and access to evidence to carry out its investigations. These recommendations are obviously what’s necessary and they should be implemented without delay.”

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