In Northern Ireland, the Past is Still Present
n a report titled “In Northern Ireland, the Past Is Still Present,” the International Human Rights Committee (Anil Kalhan, Chair) recounts Northern Ireland’s turbulent past and its ongoing efforts to institute reforms and bring lasting stability to the region. The Committee has been monitoring developments in human rights and the administration of justice in Northern Ireland since 1987, when it sent its first delegation. At that time, parts of Belfast were “armed camps with homes and shopping areas bombed out or blackened by recurring fires.” Military checkpoints and armed patrols were commonplace, and car bombings and political murders made headlines. But by 1998, during a second visit to the region, the Committee reported dramatic changes; and, in 2003, during its third visit, the Committee observed a transformation of public life in Belfast and political changes signaling hope for lasting peace. The Committee’s observations from its latest visit, in 2014, and of developments since then, demonstrate substantial progress toward the goal of long-term stability as human rights and criminal justice reforms continue to be developed, refined and implemented. However, significant challenges remain. The report offers a number of recommendations, including: developing transitional justice mechanisms to investigate and address past human rights abuses; increasing coordination between the police service and prosecutorial authorities to improve the timeliness and quality of investigations; and further reforming the prison system to improve inmates’ health and safety and eliminate discriminatory treatment.