2 4 mins 9 yrs

So. just HOW is the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission doing, I hear you ask? Well, an ATW correspondent writes;

“ATW regulars will have noticed the slight delay since we last highlighted the shenanigans at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, but this is down to the fact that its woeful performance under its current management has driven it so far into the ground that it seems almost cruel to aim a kick at it. However, ATW’s ankle is in need of exercise.

Once every four years, each United Nations member state is subjected by the Human Rights Council to a process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which rather than looking at a specific treaty, is meant to take account of the whole body of international human rights standards. The United Kingdom was subjected to this process in May 2012, and the NIHRC has just released its advice [http://www.nihrc.org/documents/advice-to-government/2012/NIHRC%20Response%20to%20UPR%20Recommendations%20August.pdf] to the Northern Ireland Executive on how it should respond to the recommendations aimed at the UK by the states participating in the UPR.

The NIHRC’s advice earnestly endorses recommendations from states such as Uzbekistan, which famously boils people to death; Brazil and Thailand, which have killed thousands of innocent civilians in their respective wars on drugs; Cuba, that bastion of freedom in the Caribbean; and other havens of liberal values such as Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Vietnam, Turkey and Belarus. Basically, if it’s a country where you don’t ever want to live, the NIHRC will take its views on board and use your taxes to promote them.

The NIHRC even backs a recommendation on more humane prison conditions from – drum roll, please – Russia. It also backs a call from Ecuador, currently providing refuge to alleged rapist Julian Assange (and thereby separating him from his various children), for better protection of the children of refugees.

Father Michael O’Flaherty, the NIHRC’s Chief Commissioner, has held a series of senior appointments in the UN human rights system and should by now have formed a view on whether Northern Ireland needs to take advice from Belarus or Uzbekistan on how to improve its human rights performance. We can only hope that the Commission’s “advice” was issued without his knowledge by his staff: more than half of those who were in post when the current director was appointed in 2011 have since departed, in some cases with huge tribunal payoffs, so the “advice” can probably be attributed to the mix of naive graduates and interns that currently serves as our bulwark against human rights abuse.

ATW, which disapproves of gambling, is not taking bets on the probability of┬áthe NIHRC being dissolved into the Equality Commission long before the end of Fr O’Flaherty’s term of office. While we were long convinced that Monica McWilliams represented the nadir in quango queenery, we now grudgingly hand the crown to her successor.”

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  1. I know there is no point in asking ATW to go easy on an organisation that is plainly in a very sorry state, but in assessing the NIHRC’s ability to perform its role in holding the institutions of the state to account, it isn’t all down to staff cuts and reliance on unpaid workers. Some allowance should also be made for the impact of strong connections with the sorts of institutions that the NIHRC should hold to account. Apart from Fr O’Flaherty, the commissioners and senior staff (a group of only eight people) include a former police officer, a former head of policing and later of prisons policy in the Northern Ireland Office, a former senior official in the health service, and the spouse of a serving PSNI chief inspector. The constant need to declare an interest and withdraw must make NIHRC meetings difficult to run.
    It is, however, notable that the commissioners include three who are or were in the Equality Commission, and a consultant in “change initiation/management”, so the intention to merge the two quangos could hardly be made more obvious.

  2. It also backs a call from Ecuador, currently providing refuge to alleged rapist Julian Assange

    Outrageous, providing refuge for an alleged rapist. Next thing you know we’ll be providiing refuge for mass murderers with strange foreign names like Pinochet.

    Oh, wait . . .

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