Human Rights Act: Scrapping law could threaten Northern Ireland peace agreement, Amnesty International warns

The charity is running a campaign to persuade the Government to keep the law

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Leading human rights charity Amnesty International has warned that newly elected Conservative Government’s plan to scrap the Human Rights Act (HRA) could threaten the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.

The Government’s controversial proposal would see a British Bill of Rights replace the HRA, and exempt the Government from having to implement European Court of Human Rights rulings with which it disagrees.

However the HRA, which was passed in 1998 to enshrine the European Convention of Human Rights into UK law, was an integral part of the Good Friday peace agreement of the same year. Scrapping it could therefore signal a breach of the peace accord, it is claimed.

Amnesty International has written to Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny as part of a wider campaign against what it is calling the biggest roll back in rights in British history.

The move “could have serious implications for Northern Ireland's peace settlement” and could undermine “public confidence in the new political and policing arrangements” which followed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the charity argues in the letter.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said in a statement: “The Good Friday Agreement is the cornerstone of a more peaceful Northern Ireland.

“Given the history of political discrimination and mistrust in policing in Northern Ireland, binding human rights obligations have been crucial in building and bolstering public confidence in these key structures post-Troubles."

She added: “Any scrapping of human rights commitments could have serious implications for Northern Ireland's peace settlement.”

Michael Gove, the new Justice Secretary, will be driving the Tories’ attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act (Getty Images)

Comment: At its best, the Government's plan to scrap the Human Rights Act is empty pandering to xenophobia

However, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said yesterday that the new law would remain true to the principles of the ECHR.

"It is about injecting a bit of common sense into the system and to address the mission creep we have seen on human rights," she said.

"At its heart the big change is the people who will finally determine these questions are the UK courts rather than the Strasbourg court," she said.

Additional reporting by PA