UK government proposes new powers for human rights bodies

The UK government is proposing to give new powers to two independent human rights watchdogs in Northern Ireland after Brexit, The Detail reports.

As part of its withdrawal deal, the government has committed to allocate special oversight and enforcement powers to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) as well as the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).

The transfer is intended to protect those civil liberties contained in the Good Friday Agreement and it is thought will cover employment rights and anti-discrimination laws.

The government had previously agreed to “no diminution” of the rights laid out in the Good Friday Agreement, meaning there can be no reduction in the provisions.

But because some of these rights are underpinned by EU law, campaigners have argued that the government had to find another way of safeguarding the rights after Brexit.

Whitehall said this would be achieved by means of a “dedicated mechanism” but has not explained what this entails.

While the NIHRC and ECNI welcomed the new powers, they stressed their extent is still unclear.

“We will continue to engage in discussions with the UK government in relation to this. We will be seeking the strongest possible safeguards and developments of equality protections and human rights following the UK’s exit from the EU,” they said.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: “The UK government has committed to ensuring no diminution of the rights protected in the Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity chapter of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.”