Washington – The United States Helsinki Commission will examine progress towards policing reforms in Northern Ireland in light of the legislation pending in the British Parliament aimed at implementing the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland.
Protecting Human Rights and Securing Peace in Northern Ireland
The Vital Role of Police Reform
Friday, September 22, 2000
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
2172 Rayburn House Office Building
Open to Members, Staff, Press and the Public
Invited to testify are:
Brendan O’Leary, Professor of Political Science, London School of Economics; co-author of Policing Northern Ireland; and former advisor to the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1988 – 1995)
Chris Patten, Chairman, former Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland
Brice Dickson, Chairman, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
Les Rodgers, Chairman, Police Federation for Northern Ireland
Martin O’Brien, Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast
Elisa Massimino, Director, Washington Office, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
British and Irish Government representatives have also been invited. Written submissions from the signatories to the Good Friday Agreement will be welcomed and additional witnesses may be added.
Background: In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement – which was overwhelmingly approved by public referendums in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – called for “a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland.” The Agreement called for the creation of an independent commission to make recommendations for future policing arrangements in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland (also known as the “Patten Commission” after its chair, Chris Patten) was created in 1998. In September 1999, the Patten Commission issued a report and 175 recommendations for creating a “new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland.” On his visit to the United States and in a meeting with the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, Mr. Patten warned against partial implementation of the Commission’s 175 recommendations. “I hope that nobody starts cherry-picking in this document, because I think it hangs together as a whole,” Mr. Patten said.
In June 2000, the British Government introduced legislation in Westminster which the Government asserts will fully implement the recommendations of the Patten Commission. The bill has been harshly criticized by human rights advocates, academics, and politicians from both nationalist and unionist parties in Northern Ireland. Approximately ninety-two percent of officers in Northern Ireland’s Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) are Protestant. The RUC is seen by Northern Ireland’s Catholic/nationalist community as a tool of the British Government and of the Protestant/unionist community. Unionists view the RUC officers as dedicated public servants who have suffered grievously while protecting the public in Northern Ireland from terrorists. Human rights monitoring organizations allege that the RUC has long been implicated in human rights abuses for which few, if any, police officers have been held accountable. This hearing will examine the status of policing reforms in Northern Ireland as envisioned by the Good Friday Agreement.