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31 / 03 / 2008 - Church Boycott of Bill of Rights
The Catholic Church’s representative on the Human Rights Forum will today boycott the official handing over of a draft Bill of Rights.
Fr. Timothy Bartlett said he could not “in good conscience” attend because he disagreed with the forum’s stance on the rights of the unborn child.
The draft Bill of Rights will suggest that lethal weapons should not be used on children in Northern Ireland except where there is an imminent and established threat to life.
The proposal, which children’s rights campaigners are expected to criticize, is contained in the draft bill which will be handed over to the Human Rights Commission in Belfast today.
The first Bill of Rights ever to be produced in the UK has been put together by the five biggest political parties along with members of community, human rights and voluntary sectors, the churches, business and trade unions.
Its articles cover equality, the right to life, freedom from torture and degrading treatment, slavery and forced labour, the right to privacy and family life, freedom of thought, religion, education, health, employment, a fair judicial system and also rights for children, women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and victims of the Troubles.
There were concerns that the draft bill would propose raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10-years old to 16 and then to 18, meaning teenage criminals would escape prosecution.
If the proposals contained in the final report of a working group tasked with making recommendations on the content of the Bill of Rights were passed, no-one aged under 18 would be prosecuted for acts of criminality.
Members of the Bill of Rights Forum which produced it will not endorse all its clauses and will clearly mark out in the report handed to Chief Commissioner Monica McWilliams what measures they support and what they oppose.
Australian human rights expert Chris Sidoti, who chaired to forum during its year-long deliberations, said the proposed bill would consist of clauses which attracted the highest level of support and would serve as a template for the commission’s proposals to government.
“What we are doing is ensuring to Human Rights Commission, which has responsibility under the statute to give the final advice, knows exactly what the full range of views are among the members of the forum”, he said.
Source : The Irish News
See also : Bill of Rights Forum has failed by ignoring plight of unborn