Publications

Human Rights Commission Vacancies

Thank You

Contact

Resources

Education

The Commission has a duty to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights in Northern Ireland. To do this we may undertake or support research and educational activities.We provide training programmes and work in partnership with government departments and agencies, and community and voluntary organisations to help mainstream human rights in their work. For example, we work in partnership with the NI Civil Service to increase human rights knowledge and awareness across the NI departments. Have a look at the online human rights guide for civil servants here.

We are a small team at the Commission but are happy to assist where we can! If you have a specific request please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at info@nihrc.org.

To promote awareness of human rights in Northern Ireland we have developed a range of videos resources and infographics which you’ll find in the Resources section below.

Thank You

Thank you for contacting The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Information for Students and Teachers

News

Thank You

Thank you for giving your views we really appreciate it

If you have any further queries please contact us on info@nihrc.org or 02890243987.

Questionnaire

Business & Human Rights

Northern Ireland Business & Human Rights Forum

​The Northern Ireland Business and Human Rights Forum was established in 2015.

It is a multi-stakeholder platform which allows Government, business, and civil society to engage on business and human rights.

Our work is directed by its members with reference to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It is an open forum to discuss human rights issues in relation to business in Northern Ireland and share good practice.

Forum meetings are held quarterly and hosted by members of the forum.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission provides the forum’s Secretariat and chaired the forum for its first year.

____________________________________________________________________

Video by EHRC.

____________________________________________________________________

Policy Statement

The Northern Ireland Business and Human Rights Forum has produced a human rights policy statement which reflects the values of the forum. It is open for all to sign up to, but this is not a pre-requisite of joining the forum or attending forum meetings.

.
.

______________________________________________________________________

Our Work

We submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Human Rights and Business Inquiry in July 2016.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission further submitted a detailed policy response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Human Rights and Business Inquiry in July 2016.

Our Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, recently submitted an oral statement to the 35th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on business and human rights. You can watch the joint statement written by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission here or read it here.

We have produced a Guide for Businesses in Northern Ireland on Business and Human Rights.

The current Chair of the Forum is Glenn Bradley, Ethical Trade Manager of Hardscape, while the Vice-Chair is Kerry Kelly, Head of Compliance for Staffline Ireland.

______________________________________________________________________

How to join us!

The forum is always open to new members. Forum meetings are held quarterly.

The next Forum meeting will take place in January 2019. A time and venue will be confirmed shortly.

Please get in touch if you are interested in attending or receiving updates on the Forum.

For further information, contact Zara Porter at: zara.porter@nihrc.org

____________________________________________________________________

Useful resources

MODERN SLAVERY RESOURCE DOCUMENT

We have put together this interactive document, containing links to resources on Modern Slavery. We hope you find it to be a valuable resource.

IFS presentation

Public Hearings Day 12 Belfast

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Belfast on 1 December 2014.

Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Jim Wells MLA provides evidence to the Human Rights Inquiry on Emergency Health Care:


The NI Ombudsman Tom Frawley & Director Michaela McAleer provide evidence to the Human Rights Inquiry on Emergency Healthcare:

Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children provide evidence to the Human Rights Inquiry on Emergency Health Care:


Health & Social Care Board provide evidence to the Human Rights Inquiry on Emergency Health Care:

Public Hearing Day 11: Belfast

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Belfast on 8 October 2014.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and South East Health and Social Care Trust

Bryson Charitable Trust

Disability Action

NI Rare Disease Partnership

Participation and the Practice of Rights and Belfast Mental Health Rights Group

Northern Local Commissioning Group

South Eastern Local Commissioning Group

Public Hearing Day 10: Omagh

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Omagh on 7 October 2014.

Southern Health and Social Care Trust and Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Age NI

Iris Russell

Willowbank

NIAMH

Western Health and Social Care Trust

Western Local Commissioning Group

Public Hearing Day 9: Derry/Londonderry

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Derry/Londonderry on 26 September 2014.

Western Health and Social Care Trust - 1

Western Health and Social Care Trust - 2

Youthlife

Gerry Sweeney

Tony O’Reily:

Public Hearing Day 8: Coleraine

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Coleraine on 25 September 2014.

Professor Derek Birrell

Richard Watson

Jackie Dempsie

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Alzheimer’s Society

Public Hearing Day 7: Ballymena

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Ballymena on 16 September 2014.

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Northern Health and Social Care Trust Part 2

Contact NI

Dr. Rosaline Rogers

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Society of Radiographers and UNITE

Noreen McPeak

Clare Law

Public Hearing Day 6: Armagh

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Armagh on 15 September 2014.

Patient Client Council

BMA

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

Eamon Duffy

Royal National Institute of Blind People

Royal College of Nursing

Public Hearing Day 5: Newry

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Newry on 10 September 2014.

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

RQIA

Public Health Agency

UNISON

Public Hearing Day 4: Downpatrick

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Downpatrick on 9 September 2014.

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Margaret Ritchie

Ursula Jess

Public Hearing Day 3: Bangor

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Bangor on 8 September 2014.

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Carer’s NI

Ambulance Trust

Barry McKnight

Daryl Couples

Public Hearing Day 2: Belfast

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Belfast on 5 September 2014.

Dr Clifford Mann, President of the College of Emergency Medicine, and Dr Richard Wilson, Chair of the College of Emergency Medicine Northern Ireland

Dr John Maxwell, ED Consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital; Dr Nick Morse, ED Consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital; and Geraldine Byers, Nurse Consultant for Royal Victoria Hospital and Mater Hospital

Dr John Gray and Geraldine Byers

Anne McGettigan

Matthew Crozier

Public Hearing Day 1: Belfast

The following evidence was recorded during a public hearing in Belfast on 4 September 2014.

Minister for Health Edwin Poots

Belfast HSCT

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride

Chief Nursing Officer Ms Charlotte McArdle

Maria Dunlop

Tony Monaghan

Deirdre Dougal

Claire McGarrigle

Chief Executive of Health & Social Care Board Valerie Watts, Director of Performance & Corporate Services: Michael Bloomfield, Director of Commissioning: Dean Sullivan, Director of Nursing & Midwifery: Pat Cullen, Director of Social Care and Children: Fionnuala McAndrew

Public Hearings

As part of the Human Rights Inquiry into Emergency Health Care, the Commission held public hearings in September and October 2014. We have heard from patients, family members, carers and also from government and medical officials.

Videos of the evidence are available below.

Monday 1 December Belfast

Thursday 4 September, Belfast

Friday 5 September, Belfast

Monday 8 September, Bangor

Tuesday 9 September, Downpatrick

Wednesday 10 September, Newry

Monday 15 September, Armagh

Tuesday 16 September, Ballymena

Thursday 25 September, Coleraine

Friday 26 September, Derry/Londonderry

Tuesday 7 October, Omagh

Wednesday 8 October, Belfast

Monday 1 December, Belfast

For students and teachers

Useful documents

A presentation on the NIHRC

A guide for school management to the Human Rights Act 1998

What is the role of the NIHRC?

The NIHRC is a national human rights institution. There are about 150 national human rights institutions in countries all over the world. We have an International Coordinating Committee that links us all together and we have a grading system based on a set of standards called the Paris Principles (because they were written at a meeting in Paris). The NIHRC has a grade A which says that we are effective, we are totally independent of governments and we’re able to do our job without any interference or corruption.

While there are human rights institutions all over the world, NIHRC was established here specifically as a result of the peace process. In the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement the section on human rights and equality included a commitment to establish both a Human Rights and an Equality Commission to recognise that building peace would mean making sure everyone here is treated fairly and with respect for their rights. So we were created as a public body that has statutory (legal) functions that are written down in the Northern Ireland Act – you can look up Section 68 and 69 to check what it says about us.

So when it comes to what work we do and what projects we get involved in, we have to stick to our legal functions that are outlined in the NI Act. This says that our 4 functions are:

  1. Advising: reminding government departments of their duties under human rights law and standards, giving them advice about how they should act if they want to comply with human rights law.
  2. Litigating: taking legal cases if we become aware of large scale violations of human rights. We can support people who are taking their own cases or we can take cases in our own names. We did this recently when we went to court to change the law that says unmarried people can’t be considered to adopt a child. We argued this was discrimination and that if this law would changed it would be better for children as more couples could come forward to be considered to adopt.
  3. Investigating: we have the power to investigate a particular issue to find out if there are any human rights abuses taking place. So we recently did an investigation into how older people are treated in nursing homes and we are currently doing one into racist hate crime and how it gets dealt with. We also have the power to inspect prisons and juvenile detention centres to check people aren’t being mistreated.
  4. Educating: making sure the public know about their rights and also that people working in public bodies know that they have a duty to respect people’s rights. We design training materials and carry out workshops. We also work with the Department of Education to make sure human rights education is on the curriculum.

What is a Bill of Rights?


A bill of rights is a piece of legislation that sets out a charter of fundamental rights that everyone living in a country should expect to have protected. Most countries have some form of a bill of rights. It is usually different from other normal legislation in that it can’t be changed by the government through a vote in parliament. It is more like constitutional law and can only be changed if the people vote to change it in a referendum. Quite often a bill of rights is created when a country is coming out of a period of conflict or injustice (e.g. South Africa and India) as it is part of the peace process, ensuring the country moves forward on the basis of equal rights for everyone.

One of the key functions the NIHRC was instructed to perform when it was first set up was to consult widely with the public in Northern Ireland to find out what people wanted to have in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. We did this for a number of years, with committees, focus groups, workshops in schools and community centres, taking letters from people etc. and in 2008, we presented our advice to the government based on what people told us. Our advice was that a BOR should include all of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights as well as some extra rights that are left out of the ECHR. In particular we wanted there to be protection for economic and social rights (things that affect our quality of life like a right to health, right to work), protection for cultural rights and special rights to protect children.

We think a BOR would be very important for Northern Ireland. The fact that a BOR is different to normal legislation would mean that we could rely on the protection of a BOR even if different governments came in and wanted to change it. Also, we need the extra rights that aren’t included in the European Convention on Human Rights because the conflict here has led to higher levels of poverty and issues of culture that are difficult to resolve. Those other rights (economic, social and cultural rights, rights for children) come from the United Nations and we think it would help Northern Ireland build a peaceful, prosperous society for all people here if they were protected.

Some people think we don’t need the BOR because we have the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act (same as the ECHR but written into UK law) but this leaves out all the protection for people’s standard of living, jobs, health etc. This would help us recover from conflict as it is well known that people are most likely to get drawn into violence when they are suffering the effects of poverty. When it comes to cultural issues like the flag protest etc., a BOR would include rights to help people understand that their culture and traditions would be protected and so would those of other groups/backgrounds.

We recently published a report called “Is that Right?” which is a document that answers lots of the questions and concerns people have about a BOR as we feel there is still a lot of confusion about what it would mean for Northern Ireland.

Human Rights Inquiry

The Human Rights Inquiry Report into Emergency Healthcare is available here.

A summary version is also available here.

Public participation was at the heart of the focus of the Inquiry and we would like to thank all the patients, family members, health care staff and representatives who contributed to the Inquiry process.

Notes to Editors

1. The Commission initiated a Human Rights Inquiry into Emergency Healthcare in the summer of 2014. The Commission launched a confidential phone line and held public hearings across N.I from September to December 2014.

2. The Inquiry Panel included NIHRC Chief Commissioner Les Allamby, Commissioner Marion Reynolds, and Professor Paul Hunt, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.

3. Watch the Panel speak about the Inquiry in this short clip

4. You can watch all the public hearings again here

5. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.

Joint Committee NIHRC & IHREC

Joint Committee NIHRC & IHREC

In accordance with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the Commission meets with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in a joint committee. This is committee is a forum for considering human rights issues in the island of Ireland, affecting both jurisdictions.

The Committee’s work

The Joint Committee meets throughout the year with alternate meetings taking place in Belfast and Dublin.

A Charter of Rights for the Island of Ireland

The Joint Committee has considered the possibility of establishing a charter for the protection of fundamental rights of everyone living in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. On 27 June 2011, they published their Advice on a charter of rights for the Island of Ireland.

The advice is based on a study of the human rights protections which the UK and Ireland have signed up to, in political agreements, the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human standards.

The Joint Committee recommends that, as a minimum, a Charter of Rights for the Island of Ireland should reaffirm the political parties’ commitment to the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Next steps on a Charter of Rights

The advice was presented to the governments of the UK and Ireland and the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Joint Committee encourages political parties and the two governments to take the advice forward and to state their commitment to a Charter of Rights for the Island of Ireland.

Working with others

Working with others

The Commission has agreed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU’s) with other statutory bodies that we work with regularly. MoU’s help us to develop good working relationships.

The Memoranda of Understanding set out the respective roles of each organisation, establish boundaries and protocols for mutual referral of issues and for joint working, and encourage and facilitate contact between the agencies and their respective staff.

Memorandums of Understanding

Criminal Justice Inspectorate MoU

Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland MoU

Code of governance

Code of governance

The Human Rights Commission Code of Governance has been prepared in line with the Cabinet Office ‘Code of Best Practice for Board Members of Public Bodies’. This Code describes the various responsibilities placed upon Commissioners when exercising their functions in relation to the Commission.

Code of Governance

How We Make Decisions

This page is under construction- if you have any queries please contact info@nihrc.org

For Commission Minutes Click Here

For Audit and Risk Management Committee Minutes Click Here

Joint Committee

joint-committee-31-meeting-minutes-april-2010.pdf

joint-committee-30-meeting-minutes-february-2010.pdf

joint-committee-29-meeting-minutes-october-2009.pdf

joint-committee-28-meeting-minutes-july-2009.pdf

joint-committee-27-meeting-minutes-april-2009.pdf.pdf

joint-committee-26-meeting-minutes-january-2009.pdf.pdf

joint-committee-25-meeting-minutes-september-2008.pdf

joint-committee-24-meeting-minutes-may-2008.pdf

joint-committee-23-meeting-minutes-january-2008.pdf

joint-committee-22-meeting-minutes-september-2007.pdf

joint-committee-21-meeting-minutes-may-2007.pdf

joint-committee-20-meeting-minutes-february-2007.pdf

joint-committee-19-meeting-minutes-november-2006.pdf

joint-committee-18-meeting-minutes-july-2006.pdf

joint-committee-17-meeting-minutes-april-2006.pdf

joint-committee-16-meeting-minutes-january-2006.pdf

joint-committee-15-meeting-minutes-october-2005.pdf

joint-committee-14-meeting-minutes-december-2004.pdf

joint-committee-13-meeting-minutes-september-2004.pdf

joint-committee-12-meeting-minutes-march-2004.pdf

joint-committee-11-meeting-minutes-december-2003.pdf

joint-committee-10-meeting-minutes-september-2003.pdf

joint-committee-9-meeting-minutes-june-2003.pdf

joint-committee-8-meeting-minutes-april-2003.pdf

joint-committee-7-meeting-minutes-january-2003.pdf

joint-committee-6-meeting-minutes-september-2002.pdf

joint-committee-5-meeting-minutes-june-2002.pdf

joint-committee-4-meeting-minutes-april-2002.pdf

joint-committee-3-meeting-minutes-march-2002.pdf

joint-committee-2-meeting-minutes-january-2002.pdf

joint-committee-1-meeting-minutes-november-2001.pdf

Financial Regulation

Financial Regulation

Expenditure over £25,000

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is committed to ensuring that appropriate systems are in place to protect and properly and efficiently manage its financial resources. Our Financial Procedures manual sets out guidelines to be followed by staff and Commissioners.

Financial Procedures Manual

Copy of Expenditure (June 2015)

Copy of Expenditure (May 2015)

Copy of Expenditure (April 2015)

Copy of Expenditure (March 2015)

Copy of Expenditure (February 2015)

Copy of Expenditure (January 2015)

Copy of Expenditure (December 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (November 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (October 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (September 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (August 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (July 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (June 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (May 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (April 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (March 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (February 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (January 2014)

Copy of Expenditure (December 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (November 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (October 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (September 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (August 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (July 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (June 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (May 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (April 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (March 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (February 2013)

Copy of Exepediture (January 2013)

Copy of Expenditure (December 2012)

Copy of Expenditure (November 2012)

Copy of Expenditure October 2012

Copy of Expenditure (September 2012).

Copy of Expenditure (August 2012)

Copy of Expenditure (June 2012)

Copy of Expenditure (May 2012)

Copy of Expenditure (April 2012)

Copy of Expenditure (December 2011)

Copy of Expenditure (November 2011)

Copy of Expenditure October 11

Copy of Expenditure September 2011

Copy of Expenditure August 2011

Copy of Expenditure April 2011

Copy of Expenditure March 2011

Copy of Expenditure February 2011

Copy of Expenditure January 2011

Copy of Expenditure December 2010

Copy of Expenditure November 2010

Copy of Expenditure October 2010

What We Spend

What We Spend

We are funded by the UK Government through the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is responsible for passing to the Commission the funding agreed by the Westminster Parliament. The Northern Ireland Office is also responsible for laying our annual reports and financial accounts before Parliament.

The Commission has an audit and risk committee with an independent chair. This Committee reports to the Commission Board.

Priorities & Plans

Priorities & Plans

The Commission sets out key priorities and areas of work in our Strategic Plan 2016-19

The Commission’s Strategic Plan ‘Building a Culture of Human Rights’s sets out the three pillars we will be working towards over the next three years 2016-19

Pillar One: Delivering Human Rights through Excellent Services to the Public

Pillar Two: Human Rights and Building the Future in Northern Ireland

Pillar Three: Social and Economic Rights in a Time of Change

Our annual reports outline progress in these areas.

Latest Latest Strategic Plan

Latest Latest Business Plan

Previous Strategic plans and Business Plans

Our people

Our Mission and Principles that underpin our work

Our Mission:

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission champions and guards the rights of all those who live in Northern Ireland.

The Principles that Underpin Our Work:

We promote and abide by the following core principles:

Building a Culture of Human Rights: A goal of human rights is to establish a society that embeds such rights at its heart. A culture of human rights is one where human rights values demonstrably guide society. The Commission is committed to fostering this culture in Northern Ireland. In doing so, it recognises the challenges presented in a society moving forward that has experienced a protracted and tragic conflict and where community divisions can run deep.

Legality and Independence: The Commission operates on the basis of international human rights law, in compliance with a statutory mandate and independently of the State. The Commission works for the promotion and protection of those human rights to which the United Kingdom is legally committed at the national, regional and international levels, and does so on the basis of the mandate conferred on it by law and in conformity with the UN Paris Principles.

Non-Discrimination and Equality: Human rights require that they can be enjoyed by everyone on the basis of non-discrimination and equality, a principle that is reinforced in Northern Ireland by the provisions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The Commission honours this principle, above all, by protecting the most powerless in society addressing the needs of vulnerable individuals and those who are marginalised.

The Equal Status of Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Human rights, as recognised in the international treaties, have equal value and status and must be implemented in an integrated manner. The Commission respects this principle in its work and promotes full implementation in all engagements with the State and other partners.

Participation: Meaningful enjoyment of human rights must be based on the participation by those affected in any processes that may impact on their well-being. The Commission is committed to involving rights-holders in all relevant areas of its activities and it strives to promote broader participation across society.

Accountability: Accountability is central to human rights enforcement so decision making must be transparent. The Commission honours this requirement in its own actions. It demands similar standards in public life and calls to account all those with responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission promotes human rights compliant independent oversight and accountability mechanisms.

Partnership: The promotion and protection of human rights needs the commitment of all who live in Northern Ireland, mindful that rights are balanced with responsibilities. It requires the engagement of government (central, regional and local) elected representatives, statutory bodies and civil society. As a Paris Principles ‘A’ Status NHRI, the Commission plays a pivotal role in building and sustaining the necessary partnerships. The Commission recognises the importance of its partnerships with the other UN-accredited human rights institutions in developing human rights values.

About the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Background The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and its Optional Protocol, were ratified by the United Kingdom on 8 June 2009. It is an international treaty which identifies the rights of disabled people as well as the obligations on the United Kingdom to promote, protect and ensure those rights. Click here to access the full text of the Convention. The Convention explains that all disabled people have and should be able to enjoy the same human rights as other people. It sets an international benchmark for the human rights of disabled people. The areas covered by the Convention include: health, education, employment, access to justice, personal security, independent living and access to information. Impact of the Convention The effect of ratification is that the Government has to take the principles set out in the Convention into account when developing new policies and programmes. The Convention will also have an interpretative influence in particular human rights cases, and before the European Court of Human Rights and European Court of Justice. The Government has reported to the UN Committee on how it is fulfilling its obligations. The Office for Disability Issues co-ordinates the implementation of the Convention, and works with the devolved administrations, including the Office of the First and deputy first Minister on this. The Equality Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will produce a shadow report, and anyone else may submit report. The Human Rights Commission´s role The Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland are jointly designated as the independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention. It will be our responsibility to look at how the Convention is being implemented in Northern Ireland, and report on this to the UN Committee. The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission fulfil this role in Great Britain. We have produced three publications under the branding developed for the joint work we carry out as the independent mechanism. Please see the Convention resources section below for more details. The Optional Protocol The UN Convention has an additional section called the Optional Protocol which allows individuals who believe that their Convention rights have been breached to bring complaints to the UN Committee once they have exhausted national and European means of redress. The Committee can also undertake enquiries into alleged grave or systematic violations of the Convention. Convention resources Read more about the Convention here: Short guide to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol Plain language version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities If you would like to receive copies of the publications, please contact us . Please see other publications on the Convention; Easy read version of the Convention Handbook for Parliamentarians Guide for Children

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Background

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and its Optional Protocol, were ratified by the United Kingdom on 8 June 2009. It is an international treaty which identifies the rights of disabled people as well as the obligations on the United Kingdom to promote, protect and ensure those rights. Click here to access the full text of the Convention.

The Convention explains that all disabled people have and should be able to enjoy the same human rights as other people. It sets an international benchmark for the human rights of disabled people. The areas covered by the Convention include: health, education, employment, access to justice, personal security, independent living and access to information.

Impact of the Convention

The effect of ratification is that the Government has to take the principles set out in the Convention into account when developing new policies and programmes. The Convention will also have an interpretative influence in particular human rights cases, and before the European Court of Human Rights and European Court of Justice.

The Government has reported to the UN Committee on how it is fulfilling its obligations. The Office for Disability Issues co-ordinates the implementation of the Convention, and works with the devolved administrations, including the Office of the First and deputy first Minister on this. The Equality Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will produce a shadow report, and anyone else may submit report.


Independent Mechanism for Northern Ireland

The Human Rights Commission´s role

The Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland are jointly designated as the independent mechanism to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention. It will be our responsibility to look at how the Convention is being implemented in Northern Ireland, and report on this to the UN Committee. The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission fulfil this role in Great Britain.

We have produced three publications under the branding developed for the joint work we carry out as the independent mechanism. Please see the Convention resources section below for more details.

The Optional Protocol

The UN Convention has an additional section called the Optional Protocol which allows individuals who believe that their Convention rights have been breached to bring complaints to the UN Committee once they have exhausted national and European means of redress. The Committee can also undertake enquiries into alleged grave or systematic violations of the Convention.

Convention resources

Read more about the Convention here:

Short guide to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol

Plain language version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

If you would like to receive copies of the publications, please contact us .

Please see other publications on the Convention;

Easy read version of the Convention

Guide for Children

Death investigations and inquests

Death investigations and inquests

The right to life (Article 2), although not absolute, is the most fundamental as the enjoyment of all other rights depends on it being respected.

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is commonly split into two parts. The first is the obligation on the state (government) to protect life even if the threat to life is from another private person. This is referred to as the Article 2 substantive right. The second part is the obligation to effectively investigate death. This is known as the procedural right under Article 2. The right to life under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act requires that an effective and proper investigation be carried out into all deaths caused by the State. The investigation must involve the next-of-kin and be:

•independent

•effective

•prompt, and

•open to public scrutiny.

What is an inquest?

An inquest is an investigation of a person’s death to find out how, when and where they died. It will be held if the cause of death is unknown, the death was a result of violence or the person died in custody or any other government detention.

Direct Gov website provides further information on inquests.

Detention

Detention

Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides the right to liberty and security of person. You can only be deprived of your right to liberty in the limited circumstances set out in the Convention. Deprivation of liberty can include detention, for example if you are in prison or detained under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986.

Complaints against professionals

Complaints against professionals

I want to make a complaint about the police. What should I do?

If you have a complaint about the conduct of a police officer, you should contact the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. It is their job to investigate complaints against the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Belfast Harbour Police, the Larne Harbour Police, the Belfast International Airport Police and Ministry of Defence Police in Northern Ireland.

Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

New Cathedral Buildings,

St Anne’s Square, 11 Church Street, BELFAST BT1 1PG

Phone: 0845 601 2931

Minicom: 028 9082 8756

Email: info@policeombudsman.org

I want to make a complaint against my solicitor. What should I do?

If you have a complaint about your solicitor, you must first write to the senior partner of the firm concerned or the solicitor concerned giving reasons for your complaint. If you receive an unsatisfactory response, the next step is to write to the Law Society for Northern Ireland.

The Law Society is the governing body for solicitors here. They ensure solicitors maintain certain standards and professionalism when dealing with clients and other solicitors.

To make a complaint against a solicitor, write to:

Law Society of Northern Ireland

96 Victoria Street

Belfast

BT1 3GN

I want to make a complaint against my barrister, what should I do?

If you wish to make a complaint against a particular barrister, you must lodge it in writing to the Bar Council. The Bar Council acts as the regulating body for barristers. It is responsible for maintaining standards, honour and independence of the Bar. Barristers who do not meet the standards are subject to discipline.

Your complaint must identify the barrister and any solicitor involved. It should detail the grounds on which you wish to complain, identify any witnesses who can support the complaint, and include relevant documents.

To make a complaint against a barrister, write to:

Secretary to the Professional Conduct Committee

Bar Library

91 Chichester Street

Belfast

BT1 3JQ

I want to make a complaint against my doctor or other medical professional. What should I do?

The Health & Personal Social Services (HPSS) operate a complaints procedure for any aspect of HPSS treatment. You must be a patient or a former patient of the practitioner or institution concerned to make a complaint. You can complain on behalf of someone else, but the hospital or practice must agree that you are a suitable representative beforehand.

Financial compensation will not be available using this procedure. You should take separate legal action if you seek financial compensation.

The first stage is to ask for a copy of the complaints procedure of the practice, hospital or trust concerned. An independent conciliator or mediator may be brought in to help resolve the complaint. Most complaints are resolved at this stage.

The second stage is to have an independent review if the complaint is not resolved through local resolution.

If you are not happy with the outcome of the internal review you may refer the matter to the Ombudsman or seek a judicial review. Judicial review is a procedure which enables a court to review decisions made by public bodies.

If you wish to take legal action, you should consult a solicitor. This can take a long time and be expensive.

Contact the Health and Social Services Council , or the Citizen Advice Bureau for advice on making a complaint against a medical professional.

Mental health

Mental Health

People living with mental health problems are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The most relevant rights include:

the right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way;

the right to respect for private and family life, home, and correspondence;

the right to liberty.

Mental Health laws must comply with human rights. In Northern Ireland, mental health issues are covered by the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. This Order covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health condition.

The Disability Discrimination Act also applies to people with certain mental illnesses. This gives some added protections and rights. See disabled rights for more information.

Mental health practice must also comply with human rights. A small proportion of mental health hospital patients are compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Order. Article 5 of the ECHR contains a right to liberty. Detention can only take place where you have a mental disorder and it is necessary for your health and safety or for the protection of others.

Can you help with mental health rights?

Yes; the Commission has prioritised mental health rights. Please contact us at.info@nihrc.org

Who else can give me advice on mental health rights?

The Mencap Learning Disability Helpline is an advice and information service for people with a learning disability, their families and carers.

Telephone: 0808 808 1111

Email: mencapni@mencap.org.uk

MindWise - MindWise supports those at risk of, and affected by, severe mental illness and mental health difficulties.

Inspire - Formerly the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (NIAMH), provides local support for those with mental health needs in locations across Northern Ireland (see website for details).

Children’s Law Centre - The Children’s Law Centre can provide legal advice and assistance and in some cases representation for young people with mental health issues.

Law Centre NI - The Law Centre runs a free specialist legal advice line for mental health patients and their families. The advice line is staffed by experienced legal advisers. Call 028 9024 4401, 9.30am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Immigration and asylum

Immigration and asylum

A guide for people who are in Northern Ireland under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. This guide is in English and Arabic here

Asylum is protection given by a country to someone (a refugee) who is fleeing persecution in their own country. It is given under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) prevents the UK government from sending anyone to a country where there is a real risk that they will be tortured, persecuted or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.

Anyone in the UK has the right to seek asylum and government has a duty not to forcibly return you to a country where you have a genuine fear of being persecuted.

The right to seek asylum can never be limited. This does not mean it will always be granted.

How can I apply for Asylum?
The UK Border Agency is the government agency responsible for granting asylum to refugees. Applying for asylum is complex. You should seek specialist advice from one of the agencies below.

To be recognised as a refugee, you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you have a well-founded fear of persecution. This can be because of your race; religion; nationality; political opinion; or membership of a particular social group.

The UK Border Agency may give you temporary permission to stay in the UK if there are humanitarian reasons, even if you do not qualify for recognition as a refugee.

Find More information on seeking asylum

Is there a human right to immigrate?
The right to seek asylum is separate to immigration. There is no human right to immigration, so governments can restrict and impose limits on migration, as long as it is fair and non-discriminatory.

I am not a citizen of Northern Ireland, do I still have human rights here?
Yes human rights apply to all human beings - they do not depend on citizenship.

Organisations who can provide advice include:

Migrant Centre NI

http://migrantcentreni.org/

(028) 9043 8962

NI Community of Refugees & Asylum Seekers

http://www.nicras.btck.co.uk/

(028) 9024 6699

The Law Centre (NI)

http://www.lawcentreni.org/

Advice line 9.30am - 1pm
(028) 9024 4401 or (028) 7126 2433

*The Law Centre is currently unable to offer immigration advice due to funding restrictions, except in the area of human trafficking. However, advice can be offered in immigration related issues of benefits, employment rights, access to health and social care services.*

Citizens Advice Centre

Find your local advice centre:
http://www.citizensadvice.co.uk/

Advice Guide Online
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/nireland.htm

UK Border Agency
http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/contact/contactspage/contactcentres/
Tel: 0870 606 7766 or (028) 9019 1000
Textphone: 0800 389 8289
More contact details and how to make an appointment (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/contact/contactspage/contactcentres/)
Email: UKBApublicenquiries@ukba.gsi.gov.uk

Solicitors in private practice

In addition, the Law Society solicitors database provides access to the contact details of firms and solicitors in the major cities, towns and villages in Northern Ireland.
http://www.lawsoc-ni.org/solicitors-directory/

Employment

Employment

Download our human rights advice on employment law.

If you work for a public authority as defined under the Human Rights Act 1998 it is unlawful for your employer to violate your rights protected in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

For example, you have the right to respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence. This means that your employer cannot record your telephone calls or carry out surveillance if it cannot be reasonably justified and they have not warned you first.

If you take a case to an employment tribunal, the Tribunal, which is a public authority, must follow the principles laid out in the ECHR. For example, you have the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time.

If your employer isn’t a public authority you cannot make a claim against them for breach of your human rights. However, general employment law has incorporated many human rights laws. For example, your employer can not discriminate against you because of your sexuality or religion. This applies to all employers.

Your general rights in work will depend on your statutory rights and your contract of employment. The Citizens Advice Bureau has produced an online advice guide, on your rights at work.

I am a migrant worker, what are my rights?

Our migrant worker guides in Northern Ireland will help you understand your rights and entitlements while you are in Northern Ireland. They are available in a variety of languages and are specific to your nationality.

Organisations who can provide advice include:

Disability

Disability

Disabled people in Northern Ireland have all the human rights in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and other international treaties and conventions that the UK government has signed.

Article 14 of the ECHR requires that your have these human rights without discrimination.

The Disability Discrimination Order (Northern Ireland) gives you extra protection against discrimination.

This law means that government must:
In 2009, the government ratified (made it legally binding) the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This means they must make sure that the dignity, human rights and freedoms of all disabled people are respected, promoted and protected. The Convention reaffirms that disabled people have the same human rights as others, and must be able to enjoy them on an equal basis with non-disabled people.

  • make sure that buildings and services are accessible to disabled
  • people – including workplaces, schools, medical facilities and transport
  • provide information intended for the general public in accessible formats and technologies such as Braille or sign language, and
  • ensure the rights of people with disabilities to equal pay for equal work, equal employment opportunities and safe and healthy working conditions.

More about the UNCRPD

I have a learning disability, what are my human rights?

People with a learning disability have the same rights and freedoms as anyone else. Government has produced a guide to the Human Rights Act to help people with learning disabilities understand what their rights are.

Organisations who can provide advice include:

Disability Action works to promote and protect the Human Rights of people with disabilities in Northern Ireland.

Contact information for Disability Action is here.

Equality Commission Northern Ireland

Telephone: 028 9050 0600

Textphone : 028 9050 0589

Enquiry Line : 028 9089 0890

Email : information@equalityni.org

Discrimination

Discrimination

Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that you cannot be discriminated against when exercising your human rights. It is not a free-standing protection against discrimination. For there to be a breach of Article 14, the discrimination must be related to one of the other Convention rights.

Northern Ireland also has a comprehensive framework of equality and anti-discrimination law to protect you from discrimination.

Organisations who can provide advice include:

Labour Relations Agency

Office of the Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunal.

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Housing

Housing

Download our human rights advice on planning permission

There is no specific right to housing under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, public authorities providing housing, such as the Housing Executive, must comply with the ECHR. If a social housing association carries out ‘public functions’ in providing housing, it must also comply.

The most relevant rights in housing matters include:

•the right to own, and enjoy the ownership of, property

•the right to respect for your private life

•the right to respect for family life, and

•the right to respect for your home.

Public authorities cannot discriminate against you in respect of any of these rights. If they do, you may be able to bring a claim in the courts.

You may also have private law rights in housing matters. These rights will vary depending on what type of tenancy you have. The Housing Rights Service’s online advice guide outlines the rights of tenants, your rights and responsibilities and tenancy agreements.

Organisations who can provide advice:

The Housing Rights Service provides free independent housing advice. They have an online advice guide or you can contact their advice line on 028 9024 5640 from Monday to Friday, between 09.30 and 13.30.

Accessibility

Accessibility

We are committed to making our website accessible to all our users and are always happy to receive feedback on how we can improve our service. If you would like to get in touch with suggestions or comments please contact us.

Publications

If you require our publications or advices in an alternative format please contact us to discuss your needs. The Commission operates in accordance with the Information Commissioner’s Office Model Publication Scheme.

Text Help

We offer the Browsealoud facility on our website. BrowseAloud adds speech and reading support to online content. For further information and to access BrowseAloud simply click on the icon below:

BrowseAloud

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

The information contained on this site has been prepared and reviewed by experienced staff employed by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Whilst considerable effort has been made to describe the law accurately, a website is limited in its ability to convey the complexities and variations in how the law may be applied and interpreted. The Commission, the authors or publishers do not accept liability for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained on this site.

We would also ask you to bear in mind the following points when using the site:

Links to other websites

Links to a number of other sites are made to provide the user with speed of reference. However, the Human Rights Commission cannot guarantee the accuracy of the contents of other websites to which links have been made.
The material published on this website is for general information purposes and does not and is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice. You should seek specific legal advice in relation to any particular matter.

Advisory material not legal advice

The material published on this website is for general information purposes and does not and is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice. You should seek specific legal advice in relation to any particular matter.

For any further information, please contact us.

Privacy

Privacy

Our Privacy Notice in line with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can be found here.

What we do

What we do

Our Core Activities

As the national human rights institution (NHRI) in Northern Ireland, the Commission has a range of duties and responsibilities including contributing to the monitoring of international human rights treaties in Northern Ireland. The core aspects of our daily operation are fundamental to fulfilling our mission. They are key to our compliance with the United Nations Paris Principles on the role of a national human rights institution and the Nolan principles of ethical standards in public life.

Our statutory functions include:

  • Advising the Westminster government, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and key agencies on legislation and compliance with human rights frameworks
  • Our work to promote awareness of human rights through education, training and research
  • Our international treaty monitoring work
  • Our legal advice work including taking strategic legal cases
  • Our engagement with other national human rights institutions in the UK
  • Our work as part of the Joint Committee with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC)

Each year, the Commission reviews progress by government and public authorities with human rights laws and standards. Our Annual Statement published in December records progress on meeting human rights standards. The Annual Statement strongly informs our future work priorities.

In 2015, the Commission was elected the chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. This reflects the esteem in which the Commission is held internationally and is an important opportunity to share our own experiences, facilitate dialogue and learn from others to achieve direct benefits for the people of Northern Ireland. The chair was handed over to the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain in April 2018.

Contact Us

Who we are

Who we are

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) is the National Human Rights Institution for Northern Ireland. Although funded by government, we are an independent public body.

Our job is to make sure government and other public bodies protect the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland. We also help people understand what their human rights are and what they can do if their rights are abused.

Why are we here?

The UK Government made a commitment to establish a Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was set up in 1999 following the introduction of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 .

We were the first national human rights institution in the UK.

The Commission’s powers are set out in legislation and its responsibilities as a national human rights institution are set out in the UN Paris Principles.

There is one full-time Chief Commissioner, and six part-time Commissioners. They are appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland following an open recruitment exercise. Commissioners should be as representative of the community in Northern Ireland as is practicable.

The appointments process is in line with that used for most senior public appointments in the UK and complies with guidance issued by the independent Commissioner for Public Appointments.

About Us

About us

Who we are

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) is a national human rights institution with A status accreditation from the United Nations (UN). NIHRC is funded by United Kingdom government, but is an independent public body that operates in full accordance with the UN Paris Principles.

Established on the basis of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, we play a central role in supporting a society that, as it rebuilds following conflict, respects and upholds human rights standards and responsibilities.

Our mission

We champion and guard the rights of all those who live in Northern Ireland.

What we do

Our job is to make sure government and other public bodies protect the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland. We also help people understand what their human rights are and what they can do if their rights are violated.

How we do it

• Advising the Westminster government, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and key agencies on legislation and compliance with human rights frameworks

• Our work to promote awareness of human rights through education, training and research

• Our international treaty monitoring work

• Our legal advice work including taking strategic legal cases

Advice Clinic

We operate an advice clinic every Wednesday morning from 9.30am to 1pm. If you would like to make an appointment to discuss your case please call 028 90243987. If you are unable to telephone us and would like to make an appointment please email us at info@nihrc.org.

If we are unable to take up your case, we will try to refer you to a more appropriate agency that can help you.

Complaints

If you are unhappy with the service you have received from us and wish to make a complaint please use our Contact page to enquire about a complaint form.

Human rights law

Human rights law

The Human Rights Act 1998 gives legal effect in the UK to certain fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

These rights not only affect matters of life and death like freedom from torture and killing, but also affect your rights in everyday life: what you can say and do, your beliefs, your right to a fair trial and many other similar basic entitlements.

What is the Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of the Westminster Parliament which makes the European Convention on Human Rights part of the law of all parts of the UK. The European Convention was drawn up in 1950, and since 1966 people from the UK have been able to take cases to the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the UK government has failed to uphold their human rights.

The Human Rights Act 1998 makes the European Convention binding at national level as well, so that people in the UK can complain in their local courts about a failure to uphold their Convention Rights.

Who upholds the European Convention?

The European Convention on Human Rights was agreed by the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is an organisation made up of different governments and was created in 1949 with the general aim of enhancing the cultural, social and political life of Europe.

It is different from what we now call the European Union, which was first created as the Common Market in 1957 and which consists of 15 countries (all of which are also members of the Council of Europe).

When did the Human Rights Act come into effect?

Although passed in 1998, the Human Rights Act did not come fully into effect until 2 October 2000. Since then cases can be taken in relation to the actions of any public authority in Northern Ireland.

What does it do?

Now that the European Convention is part of the law of Northern Ireland, individuals and organisations can go to court or to a tribunal to seek a remedy, if they believe that the rights conferred on them by the European Convention have been violated by a public authority.

If the violation has occurred because the public authority has been complying with an Act of the Westminster Parliament, the High Court of Northern Ireland is able to declare that Act to be incompatible with the European Convention. This sends a clear message to the government that it should ask Parliament to approve a corrective law as quickly as possible.

The declaration of incompatibility does not, however, achieve any other remedy for the person whose right has been violated. Courts are still not permitted to declare an Act of the Westminster Parliament to be invalid (unlike in many other modern democracies, such as Ireland, Germany, the United States of America or South Africa).

If the violation has occurred because the public authority has been complying with some law other than an Act of the Westminster Parliament such as an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a piece of secondary legislation like an Order in Council or a Regulation, or a piece of judge-made law laid down in a previous case, any court in Northern Ireland is able to declare that law to be invalid and is able to grant any other remedy which it deems appropriate, including, on occasions, compensation.

If a court is uncertain whether a piece of legislation is or is not compatible with the European Convention, it must give effect to the piece of legislation in a way which upholds people’s Convention rights so far as it is possible to do so.

Which bodies have to comply with the Act?

Every public authority - including courts and tribunals - has to comply with the Act (and therefore with the European Convention). “Public authority” means every person or body carrying out a public function, including private bodies authorities that do so, for example, a company that supplies electricity to members of the public, or a charity that provides services to the public.

Who is a victim of a human rights breach?

A victim is a person who is adversely affected by the action of a public authority. Victims can include companies as well as individuals and may also be relatives of the victim where a complaint is made about his or her death. Only a person considered a victim can bring proceedings against a public authority under the Human Rights Act.

What rights are protected by the Act?

The Human Rights Act protects the following rights from the European Convention of Human Rights:

Article 2 - the right to life

Article 3 - the right not to be tortured or inhumanly or degradingly treated or punished

Article 4 - the right not to be required to perform forced labour

Article 5 - the right to liberty and security of the person

Article 6 - the right to a fair trial (and to a range of other associated things, such as the free assistance of an interpreter if one cannot understand the language in a trial situation)

Article 7 - the right not to be punished for something which was not a crime at the time it was done

Article 8 - the right to respect for one’s private and family life, correspondence and home

Article 9 - the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Article 10 - the right to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and freedom to receive and impart information

Article 11 - the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others

Article 12 - the right to marry and found a family

Article 14 - the right not to have Convention rights secured in a discriminatory way

Protocol 1, Article 1- the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions

Protocol 1, Article 2- the right to education

Protocol 1, Article 3- the right to free and secret elections at reasonable intervals.

Are there any absolute rights?

It should be noted that Article 3- the right not to be tortured or inhumanly or degradingly treated or punished - confers an “absolute” right to which there can be no exceptions. All the other rights are expressly qualified in certain respects. For example, the violation of the right to life is “permitted” if a death results from the use of force which was no more than absolutely necessary to effect a lawful arrest.

Likewise, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly can be restricted if this is necessary in the interests of public safety or for the prevention of disorder. The European Courthas interpreted the Articles as imposing positive obligations on states to confer rights, not just negative obligations not to interfere with rights.

Rights v Responsibilities

Most rights are not absolute and may be limited where it is necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and if the limitation is proportionate to that aim. The court seeks to strike a “fair balance between the general interest of the community and requirements of protection for the individuals human rights”.

What do these rights mean in practice?

The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights flesh out what is meant by the phrases used in the European Convention. They tell us, for example, that for the moment at any rate, the right to life conferred by Article 2 does not extend to an unborn child and that the right to respect for a private life conferred by Article 8 means that homosexuality between consenting adults cannot be a crime.

Judges applying the Human Rights Act 1998 have to interpret the meaning of words used in the European Convention by taking into account the judgments already issued by the European Court of Human Rights. These judgments are all available on the Council of Europe’s website.

Is it still possible to take cases to Europe?

Since 1966 relatively few cases from Northern Ireland have resulted in a full judgment by the European Court of Human Rights. The Court now issues several hundred judgments each year. It has a huge backlog of cases, which can take years to be dealt with. An individual who has sought a remedy in our local courts and who is dissatisfied with the outcome can still pursue a remedy at the European Court.

What other documents on human rights need to be borne in mind?

The European Union often issues Directives which protect human rights (for example, the Equal Pay Directive). It is also in the process of agreeing a Charter of Fundamental Rights, although the exact status this will have is still uncertain.

The UK government has also agreed to comply with a number of other treaties on human rights, such as the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but virtually none of these treaties has yet been made part of the national law of the UK.

The role of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can give general advice on the scope of the Human Rights Act and from time to time runs educational seminars to train people in how to use the Act.

The Commission also has the power to support people who wish to take a human rights issue to court, but because of its limited resources it has to apply its criteria very strictly when deciding which cases to support.

In respect of human rights violations, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can:
Our legal team deals with a wide range of complaints however we can only take up issues that directly relate to human rights and that fall within our areas of strategic priority.

  • Provide advice to individuals;
  • Investigate complaints;
  • Assist individuals to bring legal proceedings;
  • Bring proceedings in our own name and;
  • Intervene as a third party or amicus curiae in legal proceedings.

If we are unable to take up your case, we will endeavor to refer you to a more appropriate agency that can assist you.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss a complaint, please contact our office.

Advice for you

Advice for you

Advice Clinic

We operate an advice clinic every Wednesday morning from 9.30am to 1pm. If you would like to make an appointment to discuss your case please call 028 90243987.

If you are unable to telephone us and would like to make an appointment please email us at info@nihrc.org.

If we are unable to take up your case, we will try to refer you to a more appropriate agency that can help you.

Other Useful Contacts

Human Rights Advice

We have produced a set of advice documents on human rights issues. Click to download:

Human Rights Act and the ECHR

Human Rights Act and the ECHR

Human Rights are a set of guarantees that the government makes to us in order to uphold our dignity and well-being. All of us, regardless of who we are, are entitled to benefit from economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. Some of these rights, like the guarantee not to be tortured or to be held in slavery, can never be limited. The Government can restrict the other rights to ensure that we respect each other’s basic entitlements and to keep our society safe.

The ‘magna carta’ of human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that was adopted by the UK and other member States of the United Nations in 1948 in reaction to the horrors of the Second World War. The Universal declaration sets out a vision of society, based on clear and simple individual rights, that promotes peace and well-being. As it puts it, “the inherent dignity and ... the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

There followed a long line of United Nations treaties that spell out in detail the content of the various rights in the Universal Declaration and the extent to which they can be restricted by governments. Most of these treaties are binding on the UK. They include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and treaties that prohibit racial discrimination and discrimination against women. One of the most recent treaties to have been accepted by the UK is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Side by side with the UN treaties, there exist a separate set of European human rights treaties that are also binding for the UK. The best known of these is the European Convention on Human Rights.

As a matter of international law, the UK is obliged to respect and protect all of the human rights in the treaties that it has committed to. That duty extends across all the relevant parts of government and parliament. For Northern Ireland it embraces not only to Westminster but also the Executive and the Assembly, as well as local government. The judiciary, for their part, are expected to take the international human rights obligations into account.

The European Convention on Human Rights has a unique status in that large parts of it are directly protected by means of the Human Rights Act (1998). As a result, as a matter of UK law, the Government has the duty to ensure that law and practice comply with the Convention. This special status for the European convention does not diminish the obligation on the UK, as a matter of international law, to implement the other human rights treaties, including those that were developed in the United Nations framework.

The most important level at which to work for human rights protection and to seek justice when rights are violated is the national level. At this level the lawmakers, government officials, judges, police and others all have their own key roles to play.

In order to help ensure that these duty-bearers respect their obligations, various systems of international oversight have been put in place. The best known of these is the European Court of Human Rights – the body of judges that deal with complaints under the European Convention on Human Rights. All of the United Nations treaties also have oversight bodies – often called the “committees” or “treaty bodies”. These include the (UN) Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Still another international body that reviews the UK’s human rights record is the United Nations Human Rights Council – which administers a programme to assess States called “Universal Periodic Review – UPR”. We, the human rights-holders, have various ways in which to bring our concerns about the UK’s human rights record to the various bodies.

The role of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is to help ensure that the UK honours all of its international human rights obligations. This it does through its work with national and devolved government at all the relevant levels, through programmes of awareness-raising, training and education, the conduct of investigations and in court proceedings. The Commission also has an important role in helping bridge the space between Northern Ireland and the international courts and supervisory bodies.

Ultimately, it is us, the rights holders who are the most important guarantee that the UK respects human rights. We need to know what our rights are stand up for them. Above all, we need to stand up for the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the community. It is in this way that we are best placed to realise the vision that the Universal Declaration put before us.

Our publications library

Browse our information and resources on human rights for policy-makers, journalists, teachers and researchers. Use a filter to browse or if you know what you are looking for you can use the search bar at the top of this page.

Minutes from Commission and committee meetings are published here.

The NIHRC publication scheme follows the Information Commissioner’s guidance on best practice. The scheme governs the publication and disclosure of information that the NIHRC holds on areas such as decision-making, financial information, priorities, policies and procedures, and registers. For further information please see the ICO’s model publication scheme

About human rights

About human rights

The Human Rights Act 1998 gives legal effect in the UK to certain fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

These rights not only affect matters of life and death like freedom from torture and killing, but also affect your rights in everyday life: what you can say and do, your beliefs, your right to a fair trial and many other similar basic entitlements.

What is the Human Rights Act?

The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of the Westminster Parliament which makes the European Convention on Human Rights part of the law of all parts of the UK. The European Convention was drawn up in 1950, and since 1966 people from the UK have been able to take cases to the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the UK government has failed to uphold their human rights.

The Human Rights Act 1998 makes the European Convention binding at national level as well, so that people in the UK can complain in their local courts about a failure to uphold their Convention Rights.

Who upholds the European Convention?

The European Convention on Human Rights was agreed by the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is an organisation made up of different governments and was created in 1949 with the general aim of enhancing the cultural, social and political life of Europe.

It is different from what we now call the European Union, which was first created as the Common Market in 1957 and which consists of 15 countries (all of which are also members of the Council of Europe).

When did the Human Rights Act come into effect?

Although passed in 1998, the Human Rights Act did not come fully into effect until 2 October 2000. Since then cases can be taken in relation to the actions of any public authority in Northern Ireland.

What does it do?

Now that the European Convention is part of the law of Northern Ireland, individuals and organisations can go to court or to a tribunal to seek a remedy, if they believe that the rights conferred on them by the European Convention have been violated by a public authority.

If the violation has occurred because the public authority has been complying with an Act of the Westminster Parliament, the High Court of Northern Ireland is able to declare that Act to be incompatible with the European Convention. This sends a clear message to the government that it should ask Parliament to approve a corrective law as quickly as possible.

The declaration of incompatibility does not, however, achieve any other remedy for the person whose right has been violated. Courts are still not permitted to declare an Act of the Westminster Parliament to be invalid (unlike in many other modern democracies, such as Ireland, Germany, the United States of America or South Africa).

If the violation has occurred because the public authority has been complying with some law other than an Act of the Westminster Parliament such as an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a piece of secondary legislation like an Order in Council or a Regulation, or a piece of judge-made law laid down in a previous case, any court in Northern Ireland is able to declare that law to be invalid and is able to grant any other remedy which it deems appropriate, including, on occasions, compensation.

If a court is uncertain whether a piece of legislation is or is not compatible with the European Convention, it must give effect to the piece of legislation in a way which upholds people’s Convention rights so far as it is possible to do so.

Which bodies have to comply with the Act?

Every public authority - including courts and tribunals - has to comply with the Act (and therefore with the European Convention). “Public authority” means every person or body carrying out a public function, including private bodies authorities that do so, for example, a company that supplies electricity to members of the public, or a charity that provides services to the public.

Who is a victim of a human rights breach?

A victim is a person who is adversely affected by the action of a public authority. Victims can include companies as well as individuals and may also be relatives of the victim where a complaint is made about his or her death. Only a person considered a victim can bring proceedings against a public authority under the Human Rights Act.

What rights are protected by the Act?

The Human Rights Act protects the following rights from the European Convention of Human Rights:

Article 2 - the right to life

Article 3 - the right not to be tortured or inhumanly or degradingly treated or punished

Article 4 - the right not to be required to perform forced labour

Article 5 - the right to liberty and security of the person

Article 6 - the right to a fair trial (and to a range of other associated things, such as the free assistance of an interpreter if one cannot understand the language in a trial situation)

Article 7 - the right not to be punished for something which was not a crime at the time it was done

Article 8 - the right to respect for one’s private and family life, correspondence and home

Article 9 - the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Article 10 - the right to freedom of expression, freedom to hold opinions and freedom to receive and impart information

Article 11 - the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association with others

Article 12 - the right to marry and found a family

Article 14 - the right not to have Convention rights secured in a discriminatory way

Protocol 1, Article 1- the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions

Protocol 1, Article 2- the right to education

Protocol 1, Article 3- the right to free and secret elections at reasonable intervals.

Are there any absolute rights?

It should be noted that Article 3- the right not to be tortured or inhumanly or degradingly treated or punished - confers an “absolute” right to which there can be no exceptions. All the other rights are expressly qualified in certain respects. For example, the violation of the right to life is “permitted” if a death results from the use of force which was no more than absolutely necessary to effect a lawful arrest.

Likewise, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly can be restricted if this is necessary in the interests of public safety or for the prevention of disorder. The European Courthas interpreted the Articles as imposing positive obligations on states to confer rights, not just negative obligations not to interfere with rights.

What about Rights v Responsibilities?

Most rights are not absolute and may be limited where it is necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and if the limitation is proportionate to that aim. The court seeks to strike a “fair balance between the general interest of the community and requirements of protection for the individuals human rights”.

What do these rights mean in practice?

The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights flesh out what is meant by the phrases used in the European Convention. They tell us, for example, that for the moment at any rate, the right to life conferred by Article 2 does not extend to an unborn child and that the right to respect for a private life conferred by Article 8 means that homosexuality between consenting adults cannot be a crime.

Judges applying the Human Rights Act 1998 have to interpret the meaning of words used in the European Convention by taking into account the judgments already issued by the European Court of Human Rights. These judgments are all available on the Council of Europe’s website.

Is it still possible to take cases to Europe?

Since 1966 relatively few cases from Northern Ireland have resulted in a full judgment by the European Court of Human Rights. The Court now issues several hundred judgments each year. It has a huge backlog of cases, which can take years to be dealt with. An individual who has sought a remedy in our local courts and who is dissatisfied with the outcome can still pursue a remedy at the European Court.

What other documents on human rights need to be borne in mind?

The European Union often issues Directives which protect human rights (for example, the Equal Pay Directive). It is also in the process of agreeing a Charter of Fundamental Rights, although the exact status this will have is still uncertain.

The UK government has also agreed to comply with a number of other treaties on human rights, such as the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but virtually none of these treaties has yet been made part of the national law of the UK.

What is the role of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission?

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can give general advice on the scope of the Human Rights Act and from time to time runs educational seminars to train people in how to use the Act.

The Commission also has the power to support people who wish to take a human rights issue to court, but because of its limited resources it has to apply its criteria very strictly when deciding which cases to support.

In respect of human rights violations, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can:
Our legal team deals with a wide range of complaints however we can only take up issues that directly relate to human rights and that fall within our areas of strategic priority.

  • Provide advice to individuals;
  • Investigate complaints;
  • Assist individuals to bring legal proceedings;
  • Bring proceedings in our own name and;
  • Intervene as a third party or amicus curiae in legal proceedings.

If we are unable to take up your case, we will endeavor to refer you to a more appropriate agency that can assist you.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss a complaint, please contact our office.

The Human Rights Act 1998 gives legal effect in the UK to certain fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

These rights not only affect matters of life and death like freedom from torture and killing, but also affect your rights in everyday life: what you can say and do, your beliefs, your right to a fair trial and many other similar basic entitlements.

Recent Publications

Search

Name Type Date View