Lost on the way home: The right to life in Northern Ireland

Christine Bell, Johanna Keenan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article starts from the premise that, through the Belfast Agreement, the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) was invested with a‘transitional justice’ function in Northern Ireland, unlike in the rest of the United Kingdom. The article evaluates how far the HRA has met this challenge by examining a case study of the right to life. The European Court's development of a procedural aspect to the right to life in the form of a right to an effective investigation, has implicated both institutional reform for the future, and also a need to revisit past state killings with their‘transitional justice’ implications. There have been some positive developments, but, despite this, domestic institutions and courts have largely failed to deliver on Article 2's procedural aspect. The article concludes by questioning whether the very design of the HRA has limited the possibilities for a‘transformational constitutionalism’ capable of incorporating Article 2's procedural right.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-89
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • right to life (International law)
  • Civil Rights
  • Human Rights
  • rights
  • public law
  • Northern Ireland


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