[Sinn Fein]

15th July 2003

Sinn Fein Respond To Human Rights Report

Commenting on the report of the Joint Committee at Westminster into the operation of the Human Rights Commission, Sinn Fein spokesperson on the issue Bairbre de Brún said:

``I would welcome the Joint Committee's support for greater resources and powers, particularly investigatory powers, for the Human Rights Commission and its view that independence should be introduced into the appointment of Commissioners in line with the Paris Principles. The Joint Committee also makes reference to the need for the Commission to be representative of the community but also that the principal criteria for appointment should be experience, knowledge and expertise in the field of human rights.

``The report expresses concern at the interference by the then RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan into the work and independence of the Commission and the reaction of the Chief Commissioner to such interference. This is a reference to attempts by Mr Flanagan to prevent he Human Rights Commission involving itself in the Holy Cross case in Ardoyne. Sinn Fein shares the concern of the Joint Committee in this matter.

``The views of the Joint Committee echo those expressed by Sinn Fein and by other organisations and individuals working in the field of human rights that `discrimination has been endemic', in the north of Ireland and that `institutional sectarianism still persists'. Indeed the Joint Committee's report reflects the concerns of many that the equality and parity of esteem provisions of the Agreement are being undermined by some from within the Human Rights Commission in their attempts to redefine the Framework Convention on National Minorities.

``With regard to the Bill of Rights, we welcome the recommendation that a round table forum should be convened to drive the Bill of Rights process. This should take place immediately.

``The Human Rights Commission is an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein wants to see the best possible Human Rights Commission in place, one that is truly independent and representative and with the powers and resources to place human rights at the centre of society.''

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