International Race Discrimination Committee publishes observations on the UK

A post on the Equality and Diversity Forum website highlights the publication of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluding observations on the UK’s State Report. Northern Irish civil society organisations NICEM and CAJ as well as the NIHRC had participated in the state reporting process. Their written contributions are available here; while the BBC reported on a disagreement between NICEM and NIHRC during the hearing as to whether sectarianism was a form of racism.

The concluding observations make a number of Northern Ireland specific comments:

The Committee also takes notes of reports of current lack of independence of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Irelan. … the State party should ensure that the Office of the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland is able to undertake effective, efficient and transparent investigations in cases of racial discrimination. ….

… the Committee recommends that  the State party should take immediate steps to ensure that a single equality law and a Bill of Rights are adopted in Northern Ireland or that the Equality Act 2010 is extended to Northern Ireland ….

The State party is invited to examine whether the legislative and policy framework for dealing with the situation in Northern Ireland could not benefit by being underpinned by the standards, duties and actions prescribed by ICERD and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action on inter-sectionality between ethnic origin, religion and other forms of discrimination. The State party should inform the Committee in its next report of the results of its examination of the advisability of adopting such a holistic approach towards the fight against sectarianism and racism, while also reporting directly on measures to address racial discrimination experienced by vulnerable ethnic minority groups in Northern Ireland.

These observations are very timely as a new report is expected on the Ombudsman’s office and as the NI Executive is in the process of developing a new Programme for Government.