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BIRW awarded prize for Northern Ireland work

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BIRW awarded prize for Northern Ireland work

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Monitoring human rights in Northern Ireland goes on. The independent NGO British Irish Rights Watch has been awarded the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s first Human Rights Prize, in Strasbourg. The group’s mission for nearly two decades has included promoting peace and reconciliation, and preventing conflict.

British Irish Rights Watch chief administrator Helen Shaw said: “There are a lot of problems to deal with the legacy of the past and whilst there is no conflict any more, there are lots of tensions, and there are still abuses of human rights. We still get lots of people contacting us asking for our help.” Just before the prize-giving, the Parliamentary Assembly had adopted a resolution on the need for the 47 member states to “eradicate impunity”, which the report on which the vote was based said “continues to exist in Europe”. Torture and abduction committed in the name of the state are among the worst cases not being investigated. Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Rapporteur and Chair of Human Rights Committee, said: “Some crimes are not so prosecuted in all the countries as they should be. You take domestic violence, sexual violence against women, violence against foreigners, things like that. And we can find in a lot of members of the Council of Europe state agents or private persons that are linked to state agents who are committing crimes in the name of fighting terrorism, (such as in) Chechnya or other parts of Russia, and they are not prosecuted.” The European Court of Human Rights plays a fundamental role in highlighting abuses, yet the Council’s member states often fail to apply its judgements.