Belfast programme

There’s a nice collection of short video interviews with participants in the Belfast Convention over at Amnesty NI.

You can also check out photos of the Belfast event on the Amnesty NI flickr stream.

And read blogs on each of the Belfast Convention sessions over at Amnesty NI blog, Belfast and Beyond.


Presented by Amnesty International NI and Queen’s University Belfast, School of Law.

Modern Liberty Convention, Belfast

Venue: Room 212, Peter Froggatt Centre Queen’s

Belfast will be live-linked to the Convention on Modern Liberty, a major event taking place in London on Saturday 28 February 2009. The Belfast event is sponsored by Amnesty International and Queen’s University School of Law. The central event is being sponsored by Rowntree Foundation, openDemocracy, Liberty and The Guardian.

Belfast will join by live, big-screen, link, keynotes speeches and morning and afternoon plenary sessions with panels of nationally distinguished speakers from across the political spectrum discussing the crisis of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, there will be two sets of four parallel sessions in the morning and afternoon, each focused on a different question relating to modern liberty and human rights in Northern Ireland, nationally or internationally. The panels are being sponsored and organised by a range of interested organisations and bring together activists, academics, politicians and others.

We will round off the day’s discussions with a drinks reception.



09:00 – Doors open [coffee available]


09:35 – Welcome / introduction: Prof Colin Harvey, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast; Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International


09.45 – Opening keynote address: Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

10.00 – First Plenary: Citizen and the state: The crisis of liberty

Chair: Georgina Henry (executive comment editor, The Guardian)


Dominic Grieve MP (Shadow Attorney General)

Helena Kennedy QC (Doughty Street Chambers)

Sir David Varney

Ken Macdonald QC (former Director of Public Prosecutions)


11.15 – [Coffee]

11.45 – Morning Sessions:

1. Human rights and budget decisions: sponsored by QUB School of Law


The presentation will focus on a two-year research project on ‘Budget Analysis and the Advancement of Economic and Social Rights in Northern Ireland’, which is currently being carried out the Human Rights Centre, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast. The speakers will discuss the role that may be played by budget work in relation to monitoring, and advancing, the realisation of economic and social rights.

Speakers / contributors:

  • Dr. Aoife Nolan
  • Mr. Eoin Rooney
  • Dr. Rory O’Connell
  • Ms Mira Dutschke

2. Torture and the war on terror in the Obama era – lessons from Northern Ireland?: sponsored by Amnesty International


“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” So said President Obama in his inauguration speech, echoing Amnesty’s call through the years that human rights are the friend, not the enemy, of human security. In his first hundred days, by closing Guantánamo, ending torture and setting up an independent investigation into US ‘war on terror’ abuses, President Obama can make concrete human rights reforms a reality. But, a longer-term change in the US and international approaches to counter-terrorism is also required. What lessons can be learned from Northern Ireland’s recent past and what must we do to make a safer, more just world?

Speakers /contributors:

  • Maura McCallion, Amnesty International Belfast Group (chair)
  • Patrick Corrigan, NI Programme Director, Amnesty International
  • Mike Ritchie, Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice

3. ID nation? Northern Ireland and the National Identity Register: sponsored by the NI Human Rights Commission


The debate around the implications of identity cards often focuses on the cards being merely a pointer to the National Identity Register, a vast informational database, recording personal data but also an audit trail of each time the card is swiped. Human rights concerns have been raised around the unduly intrusive nature of the system, but also the potential for the scheme to exacerbate racial profiling and other forms of discrimination, including in the particular context of Northern Ireland. In responding to questions of how the system will work here Government has recently decided there will be a separate ID card for Irish Citizens. This workshop will explore the implications of the National Identity Register with particular reference to our local context.

Speakers /contributors:

  • Nazia Latif, NIHRC (facilitator)
  • Daniel Holder, NIHRC (speaker)
  • Mark Littlewood, NO2ID (speaker)

4. NI Bill of Rights – people not politics?: sponsored by Human Rights Consortium

Venue: PFC 302 a


This session will focus on the opportunity presented by the current Bill of Rights process to develop social and economic rights in Northern Ireland.

Despite continuing party political division, there is evidence of growing support for a Bill of Rights at a community level in Northern Ireland. The session will bring together a range of Human Rights campaigners and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to discuss the inclusion of social and economic rights in a Bill of Rights and the positive practical impacts of such provisions at a grass roots community level.

It is hoped the session will explore wider attitudes to the Bill of Rights, social and economic rights protections, the forthcoming public consultation and the process of delivering the Bill of Rights into legislation.


Speakers /contributors:

  • Chair – Karin Eyben, Rural Community Network
  • Les Allamby, Law Centre NI
  • Nicola Browne, PPR Project
  • Professor Colin Harvey, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

13.00 – Lunch (light lunch supplied in the foyer of Peter Froggatt Centre, QUB)

14.00 – Afternoon Sessions:

1. Truth, justice and dealing with the past: sponsored by QUB School of Law

In the wake of the publication of the report from the Consultative Group on the Past, where do we go from here in dealing with the past and serving the interests of justice? This presentation will explore whether lessons can be drawn from international experiences to inform the Bradley-Eames proposals on information recovery. In particular, the presentation will look at the truth trials in Argentina, the amnesty process of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Uruguayan Peace Commission.


  • Dr. Louise Mallinder, QUB School of Law
  • Paul O’Connor, Project Coordinator Pat Finucane Centre
  • Seamus Heaney, Healing Through Remembering

2. Asylum, immigration and people trafficking: sponsored by Law Centre (NI)


The workshop will cover research work being done by NI Human Rights Commission on the impact of no recourse to public funds, and research into trafficking by Agnieszka Martynowicz at the Institute for Conflict Research, with an update on current issues from the Law Centre.


  • Ursula O’Hare, Law Centre (NI)
  • Roisin Devlin & Sorcha McKenna, NI Human Rights Commission
  • Agnieszka Martynowicz, the Institute for Conflict Research
  • Elizabeth Griffith, Law Centre (NI)


3. Demonstrating Dissent & Parading Politics: the Boundaries of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly: sponsored by Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster


Recent demonstrations in Northern Ireland and across the UK and Ireland have brought into sharp focus questions about the regulation of freedom of assembly. Anti-war and environmental activists, for example, have adopted novel forms of protest. While participants view their activities as justified in pursuit of a ‘greater good’, such events may inflict harm (material, psychological or economic) on others. This session will ask how the conflicting rights engaged in protest and parading situations should be accommodated. The session will also examine the impact of the Human Rights Act on public protest; and – drawing on international examples – how human rights principles should translate into good practice on the ground.

This session will hear short introductory contributions from human rights practitioners and academics working on freedom of assembly issues. The floor will then be open for discussion.


  • Dr. Michael Hamilton (Co-Director, Transitional Justice Institute, Advisor to the Strategic Review of Parading)
  • Professor Helen Fenwick (Co-Director, University of Durham Human Rights Centre, Convenorof the Civil Liberties and Human Rights section for the Society of Legal Scholars, human rights expert for Doughty Street Chambers)
  • Dr. Neil Jarman (Director, Institute for Conflict Research, Chair of the OSCE-ODIHR Expert Panel on Freedom of Assembly)

4. Devolving criminal justice and policing – human rights considerations: sponsored by the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)


How can the devolution of criminal justice and policing achieve cross-party support and human rights compliance?


‘Change and devolution of criminal justice and policing in Northern Ireland: international lessons’

  • Aideen Gilmore, Deputy Director CA

‘Delivering local accountability for policing and criminal justice – opportunities and challenges’

  • Chair: Fearghal McKinney

v Stephen Farry MLA, Alliance Party

v Alban Maginnis MLA, SDLP

v Alex Maskey MLA, Sinn Fein

v Peter Weir MLA, DUP

v Basil McCrea MLA, UUP

15.15 – [Coffee]


15.45 – Second key note address: Philip Pullman, writer

16.00 – Second Plenary: How do we secure modern liberty?

Chair: Anthony Barnett

Speakers: Chris Huhne MP, Will Hutton, Chuka Umunna, Brian Eno, Afua Hirsch

17.00 – Third key note address: David Davis MP


17.15 – Concluding comments / what happens next: Prof Colin Harvey, School Of Law, Queen’s University Belfast; Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International

17:30 – Wine reception [Fair trade wine sponsored by Co-op]


Price: £12 / £6 (students)

Registration via: QUB School of Law, 28 University Sq.: / 028 9097 3472

Other enquiries can be made to