Human Rights Consortium Reacts to High Court Judgment on the Legacy Act

February 29, 2024

The Human Rights Consortium, a coalition of 160 NGOs dedicated to a rights based society, welcomes the significant ruling yesterday in the High Court that the immunity provisions of the Legacy Act breach the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 2 of the Windsor Framework. This ruling underscores the ongoing importance of Article 2 of the Windsor Framework which ensures that there is no diminution of rights in Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit.

“This judgment is a welcome confirmation of the strength and necessity of Article 2 protections in Northern Ireland,” stated Kevin Hanratty, Director of the Human Rights Consortium. “It sends a clear message that human rights remain a priority and should continue to be upheld in Northern Ireland. Moreover, this case shows the importance of the ECHR and the Human Rights Act, which constitute a significant pillar in the human rights architecture of the 1998 Agreement and the wider peace process. The HRA must be protected going forward.”

The ruling comes at a critical time and addresses concerns raised by the introduction of the UK Government’s Legacy Act, which proposed conditional immunity from prosecution for Troubles-era crimes. The decision by the High Court highlights the essential nature of maintaining robust human rights protections and the need for the rights protections contained in the Windsor Framework and the ECHR via the HRA to be embedded in policymaking both in Northern Ireland and at Westminster.

The Human Rights Consortium calls on the UK government to respect the court’s decision and to ensure that all legislation and policy affecting Northern Ireland are fully compliant with its ECHR and Windsor Framework. This is particularly important as recent polling by Queen’s University Belfast academics shows that less than a third of people think that the UK government is delivering on its obligation to ensure no diminution of rights. Moreover, the UK Government’s Illegal Migration Act is facing similar legal challenges and is continuing to pursue the Safety of Rwanda bill despite our belief that it violates its Article 2 commitments.

“We commend the families and survivors who have bravely voiced their opposition to the Legacy Act and fought for their rights in court and are grateful to our civil society colleagues who supported the case,” Kevin Hanratty added.

The Human Rights Consortium remains committed to working to ensure that human rights are protected and extended in Northern Ireland. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the Windsor Framework and advocate for policies that uphold and advance human rights protections for all.

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