12th October 2001
Human Rights - Britain in the Dock
Sinn Fein's newly appointed Human Rights Spokesperson, Newry & Armagh Assembly member Pat McNamee has said that the British government faces tough questions when it defends its' commitment to international human rights standards before the United Nations Committee on Human Rights next week.
Mr McNamee said:
``Next week the British government's record on protecting the human rights of people in the Six Counties comes under international scrutiny. The United Nations Human Rights Committee will meet to examine the failure of the British government to fully comply with UN human rights standards.
``We are the only political party in the Six Counties to have made a submission to the UN Committee on Human Rights, and this is the second time we will lobby the Commission. This is an indication of the importance with which we view the creation of a human rights culture here.
``Through human rights violations perpetrated in legislation and policy, the British government is in contravention of the UN Charter, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Good Friday Agreement.
``The UN will be seeking to establish to what extent the British government has complied which its' recommendation in 1995. It will also raise other issues of concern including, policing, courts, repressive legislation, plastic bullets and collusion:
- The failure to ensure fair trail standards, in particular the continuing use of non-jury/Diplock Courts and access to solicitors.
- The requirements under the Police Act 2000 that only new officers are required to swear an oath to uphold `fundamental human rights'.
- The Terrorism Act (2000) contravening articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Protecting the right to life, particularly the cases of Rosemary Nelson and Patrick Finucane and to investigate the charges of official collusion and failure prevent branches of the RUC and British Army from participating in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.
- The continued use of plastic bullets.
- The liberty and security of arrested persons, in particular the continuing differences in the detention, interviewing and compensation of arrested and detained persons.
``We will also be urging the UN Committee to question the British government on its' failure to protect children from threats, intimidation and sectarian abuse in North Belfast and its' failure to uphold the rights' of Sinn Fein Ministers.''
``The British government is in the dock over its' failure to live up to international human rights' standards and it faces tough questions when it defends its' commitment to international human rights standards before the United Nations Committee on Human Rights next week.''
The British government will appear before the UN Committee on Human Rights on the 17th and 18th of October 2001 at the Palais Wilson in Geneva to answer questions following submissions received in July this year to respond to a number of issues relating to its' failure to conform to UN human rights standards.
Sinn Fein Human Rights Spokesperson Pat McNamee will be in Geneva from October 15th. We are the only political party to have submitted evidence to the UN.
In brief, Sinn Fein has called for UN support in the following areas:
- That the British government accedes to the First Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This would allow individuals to submit complaints directly to the UN Human Rights Committee.
- Under Article 1, The Right to Self-determination: To uphold the right to self-determination enshrined in the two United Nation's Covenants of 1966, the UN Charter and Article 6 of the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
- Under Article 2 and 26, non-discrimination: Sinn Fein calls for equitable recruitment of nationalists and republicans in order for a new police service to be fully representative of our society.
- An end to discrimination against former political prisoners, which was promised under the Good Friday Agreement and for their former convictions to be quashed.
- The British Criminal Justice Review should, as far as is practicable, be representative of the political, religious, ethnic and gender balance in society.
- The British government has failed to take resolute action to identify and address discrimination against Travellers despite the Equality duty under the Good Friday Agreement.
- UN scrutiny of the recently introduced Terrorism Act 2000 which violates Articles 4,9, 14, 17 and 19 of the ICCPR and Articles 5, 6(2) and 8 of the ECHR. This act extends and makes permanent, provisions formerly contained within emergency powers criticised by human rights agencies. In effect, the British government has reneged on the specific commitment given in the Good Friday Agreement to repeal emergency legislation.
- An end to non-jury Diplock courts which violates Principle 5 of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
- For the British government to comply with the UN Human Rights Committee recommendation to re-instate the right to silence and the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself.
Under Article 6, the Right to Life and Article 7, we call for:
- Plastic Bullets to be banned.
- British government compliance with the recent ECHR ruling in relation to procedural shortcomings in state investigations into state killings.
- For independent inquiries to be held on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Portadown nationalist Robert Hamill and IRA volunteer Diarmuid O'Neill.
- For the Stevens Report into collusion to be made public and an independent inquiry held into collusion between state forces and loyalist groups.
- For the Police Ombudsman to have full powers of retrospection to investigate human rights violations of state agencies.
- For the British government to comply with a report of the Special Rapporteur of 5 March 1988 which recommended an independent judicial inquiry into the killing of human rights lawyer, Pat Finucane and for an independent judicial inquiry into the killing of Rosemary Nelson.
- Under Article 24(1) that every child shall have, without discrimination, the right to protection as required by his/her status as a minor.
- Under Article 25, Participation in Public Life, Sinn Fein also contends that the unlawful actions of David Trimble by not nominating two Sinn Fein ministers is in breach of this article.
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