NI: QUB Human Rights Centre warns review of Human Rights Act threatens stability and peace
The UK government’s review of the Human Rights Act “presents significant potential risks to stability and peace in Northern Ireland”, experts at Queen’s University Belfast have said.
In a 19-page submission, QUB Human Rights Centre said the review is “widely perceived here as the latest in a long line of developments calling into question the government’s commitment to human rights and its willingness to retain the ECHR at the centre of the UK’s constitution”.
The submission castigates the review as “neither welcome nor timely” and opposes any diminution of the human rights protections in the 1998 Act. “Indeed, had it been within your remit to consider additions to the HRA, we would have had several suggestions to make on that front,” it states.
The centre has made two proposals for additions to the Act on the issues of designated derogation orders and remedial orders, which formed the bulk of the consultation.
It suggests the HRA should expressly permit the compatibility of designated derogation orders to be challenged under the current rules on judicial review and confirm that courts have the power to quash such orders if they find them to be incompatible with the conditions for derogations set out in Article 15 of the ECHR or elsewhere in the HRA.
The centre states: “In Northern Ireland we are all too familiar with ‘emergency’ legislation in relation to which derogations have been lodged in Strasbourg. Our strong feeling is that in almost every instance such derogations represent a failure of imagination regarding law-and policy-making.”
On remedial orders, it says they should not be able to amend the HRA itself, as happened recently through the Human Rights Act 1998 (Remedial) Order 2020 to allow courts to award compensation for a person’s detention in breach of Article 6 of the ECHR.
It warns that changes through remedial orders could “become a Trojan horse, providing political cover for more substantial rebalancing that would end up weakening the Act in practice”.