Northern Ireland news

Amnesty International calls on British government to ensure safety of Professor Colin Harvey

Professor Colin Harvey. Picture by Mal McCann

AMNESTY International has urged the British government to ensure the safety of Queen's University academic Professor Colin Harvey.

The high-profile human rights lecturer, who is a member of civic nationalist group Ireland's Future, has faced public criticism from unionist politicians, alongside abuse on social media.

Earlier this month, Prof Harvey told The Irish News that a "targeted campaign" is seeking to close down public conversations about constitutional change.

He also revealed that he had experienced an upsurge in online abuse in the aftermath of remarks by Baroness Kate Hoey, who claimed the professions in the north are "dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion" who were using their roles to "exert influence on those in power”.

The Queen's lecturer is also at the centre of an ongoing controversy over appointments to a Stormont advisory committee on a bill of rights.

Amnesty said Prof Harvey had been "subjected to a years-long campaign from elected politicians, media commentators and political activists".

It said the criticism and abuse was "designed to undermine his professional academic standing".

"This campaign of vilification has escalated in recent weeks and raises concerns about Prof Harvey’s safety and, more broadly, the ability of academics and other individuals to participate in such public policy debates in Northern Ireland without fear as to their personal safety and professional standing," a statement from Amnesty said.

Amnesty's regional director Patrick Corrigan said the abuse of the former Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner was "simply unacceptable".

 

“Prof Harvey is a leading academic expert on human rights and constitutional law and, like others, must be able to contribute to public policy discourse without fear for his personal safety and professional standing," he said.

 

He said the group planned to write to Secretary of State Brandon Lewis stressing the need for the British government to "uphold the human right to freedom of expression, including academic freedom".

Prof Harvey told The Irish News that he welcomed Amnesty's "significant intervention".

"It is essential that people pause and reflect on the impact of the climate being created here and consider the potential implications for all those affected," he said.

"It is vital that everyone is able to engage in these challenging constitutional and human rights conversations without fear."

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