Annual statement marks another challenging year for human rights
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will today launch its 2020 Annual Statement, with a reminder that human rights ‘do not take a back seat during public emergencies’.
The Commission’s report, which highlights a lack of progress on human rights in Northern Ireland in 2020, is being launched virtually for the first time this year. It also comes just months after the appointment of a new board of part-time Commissioners, and will mark the last report published under Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, as he reaches the end of his term in August 2021. The keynote speaker at this year’s launch will be Dame Vera Baird DBE QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.
Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, stated:
“This year has been hugely challenging for a variety of reasons, not least the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on human rights, political and policy developments. The hope and ambitions set out in the New Decade, New Approach document at the beginning of the year were dimmed as Northern Ireland moved into lockdown, and the NI Executive suddenly faced an unprecedented public health challenge.
“Human rights do not take a back seat during public emergencies. There has been progress made on a number of fronts during the pandemic, and our 2020 Annual Statement records these developments alongside long outstanding issues that remain unsolved. As we move into 2021 and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the Commission is preparing to take on a new role within the Dedicated Mechanism – set out in the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol – alongside the Equality Commission for NI. We will work diligently with the ECNI, and as part of the joint committee with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to ensure that rights protection here keeps pace with the EU. This is all the more important as the Government this week has embarked on an independent review of the Human Rights Act and the impact of the Act on the relationship between the Cabinet, Parliament and the courts. We need to continue to be vigilant in safeguarding important legal safeguards.”
Welcoming Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird DBE QC, Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, added:
“We are delighted to welcome Dame Vera Baird DBE QC to address this year’s launch. Dame Baird is a champion of victims’ rights, and has rightly been recognised for her services to promoting women’s rights and equality. We look forward to hearing from her today as she addresses the victim’s journey.”
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird DBE QC, stated:
“I’m delighted to be joining the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission as the keynote speaker for this year’s launch of the annual statement. I fully endorse the sentiment behind this year’s launch: human rights most certainly do not and should not take a backseat during emergencies.
“This year has been challenging for us all but there is hope on the horizon. In the meantime, we must find the right balance between appropriate public health measures and ensuring vulnerable groups are suitably protected under lockdown conditions. Domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual violence have all soared during lockdown and vulnerable groups suffer most from disruptions in day-to-day contact. Equality of access to victims’ services and the first duty of the state to protect its citizens from harm are at a premium. So now is a time to emphasise and boost our commitment to human rights, not treat them as optional.”
10 Dec 2020