The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution that was established as a result of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

The Commission has A status accreditation from the United Nations. This recognition means that the organisation operates independently in full accordance with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 48/134 (the Paris Principles).

Our statutory duties of the Commission in accordance with the Northern Ireland Act 1998 are:

  • keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness in Northern Ireland of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights.
  • advising the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Executive of legislative and other measures which ought to be taken to protect human rights—as soon as reasonably practicable after receipt of a general or specific request for advice; and on such other occasions as the Commission thinks appropriate.
  • advising the Northern Ireland Assembly whether legislative Bills are compatible with human rights
  • providing advice to the UK government and Westminster Parliament on matters affecting human rights in NI.
  • conducting investigations on systemic human rights issues. To do so, we may enter places of detention, and can compel individuals and agencies to give oral testimony or to produce documents.
  • promoting understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights in Northern Ireland. To do so, we may undertake or support research and educational activities.
  • providing legal assistance to individuals and initiating strategic cases, including own motion legal challenges.
  • monitoring the implementation of international human rights treaties and reporting to the United Nations and Council of Europe.
  • working in partnership with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as mandated through the joint committee created in accordance with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
  • overseeing the UK Government’s commitment to protect certain rights, safeguards and equality standards after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The Commission exercises this mandate alongside the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and works with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on the island of Ireland aspects of the commitment.

 

In accordance with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the Commission meets with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in a joint committee. This committee is a forum for considering human rights issues on the island of Ireland, affecting both jurisdictions.

In 2009 the UK Government designated the Commission alongside the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission as the UK Independent Monitoring Mechanism (UKIM) under Article 33(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). UKIM is tasked with promoting, protecting and monitoring implementation of the CRPD across the UK.

The Commission is also designated, with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons as the independent mechanism tasked with promoting, protecting and monitoring implementation of Convention in Northern Ireland.

We also collaborate with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Human Rights Commission on UK constitutional matters and in our engagement with the UN Human Rights Council.

The Commission actively contributes to all UN Treaty body processes which the UK has signed up to. To promote effective reporting and implementation the Commission has established a Treaty Working Group composed of UK and NI officials with reporting responsibilities.

Our Annual Statement, published in December each year, analyses key developments in human rights throughout the year. Through the report the Commission acknowledges progress and records where human rights protection has deteriorated. The report is presented to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Head of institution

Chief Commissioner, Alyson Kilpatrick

Website

www.nihrc.org

Address

4th Floor Alfred House
19-21 Alfred Street
Belfast

Year of establishment

1999

Accreditation status

A

Year of accreditation

2023

Number of staff

30

Regional offices

NA

Mandate(s)

  • Monitoring body under CRPD Art 33(2)
  • National human rights institution
  • Monitoring body under Article 2(1) of the Windsor Framework

Core functions

  • Advice to Government
  • Investigations & research
  • Legal assistance
  • Advice clinic
  • Reporting to international and regional human rights mechanisms
  • Education, promotion and awareness-raising of human rights
  • Annual Human Rights Statement
  • Overseeing the UK Government’s commitment to protect certain rights, safeguards and equality standards after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
  • Independent Mechanism for Northern Ireland along with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
  • Joint Committee with the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission
  • Engagement with other United Kingdom NHRIs