By Ray O’Hanlon
The Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland must address human rights issues during its current U.S. and Canadian tour, the human rights group Human Rights Watch said.
"The RUC has consistently failed to respect human rights. The policing commission has a chance now to set up a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for abusive police," the group’s executive director, Holly Cartner, said last week.
She added that RUC officers responsible for human rights violations be held accountable for past abuses and that, in the future, human rights should be considered "a first principle" of policing.
Human Rights Watch met with commission chairman Chris Patten last weekend and expressed its concerns to the former governor of Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, comments by a Northern Ireland Police Federation representative has angered the Washington, D.C.-based Irish National Caucus.
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Fr. Sean McManus reacted angrily to comments made by federation chairman Les Rodgers to the Irish edition of the London Sunday Times.
Rodgers was quoted in the Times as saying that the federation recognized the need to recruit more Catholics, "but the stumbling block has always been the provisional IRA, the church and politicians who never told young people to join the RUC."
McManus described the remarks as an extraordinary and disheartening statement.
"The Provisional IRA did not emerge until 1969, so logically, according to Mr. Rodgers’s reasoning, there would have been a high Catholic RUC membership prior to 1969.
"Well let’s look at the record: In the 1920s, the RUC was 80 percent Protestant; in the 1930s it was 83 percent Protestant; in 1969 the RUC was 89 percent Protestant and today the RUC is 93 percent Protestant," McManus said in a statement.
"Mr. Rodgers also blames the Church and the politicians. Everybody but the RUC when in fact the RUC is the problem, its origins, history, record, ethos and composition," McManus added.
Meanwhile, the House International Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Ben Gilman, is to hold hearings into policing in Northern Ireland at a date to be set in the spring.