NI human rights commitments needed in UK trade deal, Amnesty tells US government

The human rights charity has urged the US government to ensure that any trade deal with the UK protects human rights in Northern Ireland.

16 March 2022

Amnesty International has urged US President Joe Biden to make human rights in Northern Ireland a cornerstone of any US-UK trade agreement, as leaders on both sides of the Atlantic prepare to mark St Patrick’s Day.

The human rights charity has urged the US government to ensure that any post-Brexit trade deal with the UK protects human rights in Northern Ireland.

The UK Government is proposing to revise and replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a bill of rights, which it says will restore common sense to human rights protections in the country.

However, critics have claimed that it represents an attack on human rights and will weaken the protections afforded to citizens.

In Northern Ireland, concerns have already been raised that any move to scrap the Human Rights Act would significantly undermine the Good Friday Agreement.

The latest intervention from Amnesty International comes as Irish political figures gather in Washington to mark the feast day of the country’s patron saint.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin will later this week meet Mr Biden as part of the traditional ceremony between Irish and American premiers to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and the ties between the two countries.

Amnesty International is among the signatories to a briefing, backed by 14 different organisations, to key figures in the Biden administration to warn against any UK Government moves to scrap the Human Rights Act.

The briefing, signed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Committee on the Administration of Justice, calls the UK Government proposals a “fundamental change in the balance between human rights protections and executive power in Northern Ireland”.

Human rights groups have also warned against UK proposals for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland.

The proposals include plans for a statute of limitations, which would end all prosecutions for Troubles incidents up to April 1998 and would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries.

The briefing tells US political figures: “It would be useful if the US government makes clear now, that in any future trade negotiations with the United States, diminutions in rights are a barrier to the successful conclusion of a trade agreement.”

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International UK and one of the signatories to the briefing, said: “We are deeply concerned that the UK Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act will undermine decades of work in building peace and human rights protections for people in Northern Ireland.

“If implemented, the Government’s plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act would amount to taking a wrecking ball to its human rights and equality commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and the protocol.

“London appears not to be listening to these concerns when raised in Belfast, so we are asking the Biden administration to ensure that they are echoed in Washington DC.

“The United States has been a welcome guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement in the past and we are asking them to assist again now.”

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