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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
RUC hosts human rights conference
The RUC have faced allegations of human rights abuses
A human rights conference hosted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary has begun in Belfast.

The two-day event marks the first anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights being incorporated into law in the province.

The conference will be chaired by Ralph Crawshaw, a fellow of the Human Rights Centre, at the University of Essex and Justice Donal Barrington, the President of the Human Rights Commission in the Irish Republic.

Speakers over both days will include Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and the Human Right's Commissioner, Brice Dickson.

The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on 2 October 2000.

It is our intention to provide effective policing whilst respecting the rights and freedoms of all

Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Chief Constable

RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who will open proceedings at Belfast's Hilton Hotel, said the event gave the RUC the chance to show its "commitment to the fundamental rights and freedoms that it contains".

"The tensions in our society present unique policing challenges," he said.

"By placing respect for human rights at the core of policing, we seek to balance the often conflicting interests of our diverse communities.

"It is our intention to provide effective policing whilst respecting the rights and freedoms of all.

The chief constable pointed to a new human rights team within the RUC as proof that the police in Northern Ireland were responding to the challenges of the Human Rights Act in "a positive way".

Human rights awareness training has been given to all RUC officers and is now part of an on-going training programme within the force.

Sir Ronnie also announced that a lawyer with specific expertise in human rights is to join the human rights team in the near future.

RUC officers are being given human rights training
RUC officers are being given human rights training

"We are committed to ensuring our officers are equipped to face the challenges of the Human Rights Act.

"I hope that hosting this conference will demonstrate our willingness to embrace this human rights-based approach to policing.

"I also hope that this conference will encourage mutual understanding of human rights issues for both police officers and our guests where ever they may come from."

The Council of Europe, Amnesty International and the International Red Cross and the pressure group the Committee on the Administration of Justice, will also be represented at the conference.

Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid said: "The police service has sought to embrace the Human Rights Act 1998 in as positive a manner as possible.

"As stated in the Patten Report, we seek to adopt a human rights-based approach, which will address the philosophy of policing rather than mere lip service."

Delegates to the conference will include representatives of international organisations, as well as statutory and non-statutory bodies in Northern Ireland.

Community groups, minority groups, including ethnic groupings, gay rights campaigners disabled groups and victim support groups are also expected to attend.

Northern Ireland is unique in the UK as it even has its own Human Rights Commission - a creation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Professor Brice Dickson:
"The police have responded positively to change"

The Human Rights Act

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05 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Whose human rights in Northern Ireland?
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