I started working at the
Committee for the Administration of Justice
in NorthernIreland in 1987. The committee has three jobs.
, it publishes and disseminatesinformation on citizens' rights, such as
how the police should behave
whenconducting an arrest, or how prisoners are treated.
Northern Ireland is a very segregated society-so much so that it is quite possible to reach theage of eighteen without ever having met someone from a differentpolitical background
. In an effort to tackle this segregation there are a range of groups that organize different
activities designed to bring Protestants andCatholics together
, perhaps by sponsoring activities, talking about sports, ordiscussing a number of uncontroversial topics. Over time, more controversial issuesarise within these groups. Tension, for example, might be created within the group if someone has a family member in prison. At this point, CAJ might be invited by thegroup organizers to
facilitate a discussion about prisoners' rights orhave a general discussion about human rights:
why are rights importantand where do our ideas about rights come from? CAJ publishes materials about abusesand gets that information into the press. As an extension of this, the committee acts as
an informational resource for students, journalists, community groups,church people, members of the public, politicians, internationaldelegations, and others.
, CAJ offers
legal advice and assistance to people
whose rightshave been violated. The committee either acts as their lawyers (as in the five casespresently in the
European Court of Human Rights
), or helps victims and theirfamilies manage a case beyond the court proceedings. For instance, members might helpthe family in a miscarriage of justice case by identifying sympathetic politicians andattending meetings between the two parties. Likewise, members meet with people from
Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights
to enlisttheir support.
, the committee is involved in
lobbying for changes to laws andpractices that violate human rights
. For example, it has worked to secure
laws prohibiting racial discrimination
in Northern Ireland. This hasprovided protection for minority groups like the Chinese and Indian communities inNorthern Ireland. Another example would be our work to
secure safeguards toprevent the ill-treatment of detainees
. Lobbying and campaigning arecritical to ensure that the government lives up to its commitment to internationalhuman rights law. Over the last few years our work centered on gettingI got involved in this kind of work in 1976 when I was twelve years old. A group of people knocked on the door of our house and said,
"Do you want to go on apeace march to demonstrate against the violence?"
My older brotherand sister went and I said I would go with them.
We marched every weekendin different parts of Northern Ireland and, in doing so, formed alocal group that brought together diverse people. The