HRC hamstrung by restrictions on MI5 investigations

As we flagged up here on Slugger a few weeks ago, the Human Rights Commission was not happy being restricted from looking into any human rights abuses from the past. Now the Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights has added its voice, saying that the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill would be a “severe blow” to the work of the organisation by preven. This is the same Bill that downshifts the importance but retains the non jury Diplock Courts.

It also claimed proposed restrictions that could prevent the commission from compelling evidence and accessing places of detention were “unjustifiable” and were “far too onerous” to enable it to protect the human rights of those held in custody.

The committee added that there were not sufficient safeguards against the “arbitrary exercise” of the Director of Public Prosecution’s power to certify juryless trials and extra powers for the police and military may be incompatible with human rights legislation.

The report was issued by the committee as the Bill progresses through the British parliament. The Bill follows progress made by paramilitary ceasefires, general improvements in the security situation and last year’s St Andrews Agreement which provides a timetable for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The report also noted:

“…we agree with the NIHRC that there should be no blanket ban preventing it from raising questions about the intelligence services in its investigations. In the context of Northern Ireland, such a limitation would be a severe blow to the credibility and effectiveness of the commission in protecting and promoting human rights.”