“Any further steps on legacy must place the rights and needs of victims at its heart,” the report says.
The bill proposes to create a new independent body called the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) and offer immunity from prosecution for individuals who co-operate with it.
The report urges the British government to “return to previously agreed principles in the Stormont House Agreement, and to use these principles as a basis to set out an approach to legacy cases that can carry the support of a considerable portion of society in Northern Ireland, that provides for ECHR-compliant investigations into killings and other serious human rights violations during the Troubles, and that prevents impunity for such violations”.
The Commissioner also calls for steps to be taken to enhance overall human rights protection, including by providing adequate resources to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
The Commissioner calls for steps to protect journalists, in the light of continuing threats against them.
She also calls for more integrated schools and sustained funding of abortion.
The Commissioner adds that the overall system for protecting human rights is under strain in Britain and authorities should spare no effort to reverse this trend.
The report follows her visit to Britain in June 2022 and focuses on the overall human rights landscape, children’s rights, and specific human rights issues relating to the North.
“The report reflects the anxiety about the direction of human rights protection that I encountered during my visit.
“This anxiety is fed by what appears to be an increasingly antagonistic attitude towards human rights by the UK government, and especially by recent and proposed changes to laws and policies,” she observes.
Most prominent among these is the proposal to repeal the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a Bill of Rights.
The Commissioner believes that this step will weaken rather than strengthen human rights in the country, including by encouraging divergence between the interpretation of human rights by domestic courts, and by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Commissioner also highlights a significant regression in the observance of international obligations to uphold the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including through the expansion of inadmissibility rules for asylum claims, the pursuit of removals to Rwanda, and the criminalisation of asylum seekers arriving irregularly.
She calls for steps to counter negative public discourse towards trans persons, and reiterates her call that Julian Assange’s extradition not be allowed due to the impact this step would have on media freedom more generally.
To better protect children’s rights, the Commissioner calls for urgent measures to combat child poverty, as well as a review of the use of stop and search powers against children, including strip-searching, and a raising of the minimum age of criminal responsibility in line with international standards, thus ensuring that 16- and 17-year-olds can benefit from “child-friendly” justice.
The Commissioner also wants greater participation by children in decision-making, including by lowering the voting age where applicable.