Protection of National Minority Rights Raised with Council of Europe Committee

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8 March 2016

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has presented advice on the protection of National Minority rights to Expert Council of Europe Committee.

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby stated:

“The Commission valued its recent opportunity to meet with the Advisory Committee. We outlined our concerns about the lack of input from the Northern Ireland Executive in general on human rights treaties. We discussed the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the fact that there has been no progress towards a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. We welcomed progress made by Executive through the recently published Racial Equality Strategy whilst highlighting where the gaps remain, as there is no detailed action plan and it does not fully commit to ethnic monitoring. We hope that our advice will serve only to increase existing protections.”

This work forms part of the Commission’s engagement with the Council of Europe treaty monitoring processes. The Commission submitted advice regarding the UK’s Fourth Report on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) to the Advisory Committee. The Committee is expected to publish their opinion in May.

For further information please contact: Claire Martin on 02890 243987 or Claire.Martin@nihrc.org

Notes to editors:

1. NIHRC met with the Advisory Committee in Belfast on 7th March 2016.

2. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is one of the three A status National Human Rights Institutions in the United Kingdom (UK). In accordance with the UN Paris Principles the NIHRC reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government and NI Executive to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland (NI).

3. As part of the NIHRC’s engagement with the United Nations (UN) and Council of Europe treaty monitoring processes, it has submitted advice regarding the UK’s Fourth Report on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) to the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention on National Minorities (Advisory Committee). View the full submission here

4. The Commission has advised, with respect to the UK’s Fourth Periodic Report on compliance with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Advisory Committee may wish to ask the State party (the UK Government, including the N.I Executive):

Treaty Monitoring: what steps it is taking to ensure that OFMDFM is consistently engaged at the earliest possible stage in the reporting process;

Bill of Rights: how the commitments within NI’s peace agreements will be ensured if the Human Rights Act 1998 is repealed and replaced by a British Bill of Rights;

• how it intends to work towards developing a consensus among the political parties on a Bill of Rights and meet its obligation emerging from the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement to implement a Bill of Rights for NI;

• EU: about the impact a UK exit from the EU will have on the domestic law which gives effect to the FCNM

• Racial Equality: for more information about the implementation of the Racial Equality Strategy, in particular the publication of a clear timetable and action plan for implementation;

• about its long term planning for the receipt of all refugees in NI;

Travellers: for an update on the development of the programme for Traveller specific schemes in NI and recommend the improvement of basic living conditions on serviced and halting sites in NI;

• how it will ensure that planning rules in NI take account of the specific needs of Travellers;

• what steps will be taken to amend legislation which requires the NI Housing Executive to obtain site licences from local councils;

• Housing: about proactively concentrating efforts to promote the development of shared social housing to improve community relations in NI;

• to collect robust equality data to assess and monitor inequalities in housing and to allow for evaluation of Government Department actions to address inequalities in NI;

• Culture & Identity: for further information from the State Party on the timetable for establishment of the new Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition;

• what measures are being taken to progress the commitments under the Together Building a United Community Strategy, in particular the Equality and Good Relations Commission and a definition of sectarianism;

• for further information as to measures being taken to ensure that tolerance and intercultural dialogue are protected in the naming of public spaces;

• Hate Crime: about its progress in protecting victims from hate crime, including working towards the full implementation of the NIHRC’s investigation report;

• what steps are being taken to ensure that sectarian hate crime is effectively dealt with through the criminal justice system on an equivalent basis to other forms of hate crime;

• Language: about the progress of the Irish Language Bill;

• how it will fulfil its obligations to promote the Irish language in the absence of political consensus in NI;

to provide an update on the implementation of actions contained within the strategy on developing the Ulster Scots language, culture and heritage;


08 Mar 2016