The establishment of the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights, has been greeted with caution and concern by democracy campaigners.
The Director of Unlock Democracy, Peter Facey, commented: “If this Commission is about delivering a Bill of Rights that builds on the Human Rights Act and strengthens the rights and freedoms of everyone in the UK then we will be its enthusiastic supporters.
“But if, as many fear, the Commission is about providing a smoke screen to weaken and downgrade the Human Rights Act then we will be its implacable foe."
Facey continued: “How reforms are made is just as important as what form they take. The creation of a modern Bill of Rights that will become a core part of our constitution is a serious business and can not just be by a Commission of the great and the good alone; it needs to engage with ordinary people. The public must have a genuine stake in any changes made. We hope that the Commission will announce details about how it intends to do this soon."
“The Commission also needs to make it clear how it intends to build on the work of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was one of the key commitments of the Good Friday Agreement and involved thousands of ordinary people. It has however, been in limbo for the past three years since it was published.
“The UK Commission is an opportunity to clarify what the Northern Irish Bill's status is and how it will relate to the UK as a whole. It would be a disgrace if this Bill was simply left to gather dust on a shelf because it was inconvenient to the political agendas emanating from Stormont and Whitehall,” said Mr Facey.
Unlock Democracy (http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/ ) is a leading UK campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms. It was formed in 2007 and is the successor organisation to Charter 88 and the New Politics Network.