The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights on Monday raised concerns over the proposed controversial legal reforms that would allow local courts in the UK to no longer comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
“It is worrying that the proposed legal reforms might weaken human rights protections,” Dunja Mijatovic said about the Bill of Rights and the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) bill, adding that they send a “wrong signal beyond the country’s borders at a time when human rights are under pressure throughout Europe.”
Mijatovic, who visited the UK from June 27 to July 1, in a statement, said it is crucial for Britain to not undermine the “protection of ECHR rights” which is one of the foundations of the peace settlement in Northern Ireland under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
The Bill of Rights, if voted through, would mean the ECHR’s rulings and decisions will no longer be binding upon the British courts. Britain’s ministers have assured that the UK would not abandon the European Convention on Human Rights and will still be under the jurisdiction of the ECHR based in Strasbourg.
Mijatovic pointed out that the Bill of Rights would significantly alter the way in which people can bring cases to UK courts and have their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights effectively enforced.
On the Legacy and Reconciliation bill that would grant conditional immunity to people accused of serious crimes like murder during the three-decade conflict, Mijatovic raised concerns of it leading to “impunity.”
She stressed that the proposed legislation casts doubt over the potential of “justice” to contribute to truth and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, also urging a thorough investigation into the murders of journalists Martin O'Hagan and Lyra McKee and that the accused be punished without impunity.
She urged the UK government to ensure that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can operate “independently and effectively” in line with the Paris Principles of the UN./agencies