Human rights and dealing with Northern Ireland's past

The issue of how Northern Ireland deals with the past is currently occupying a lot of minds and a lot of media column inches here. While Amnesty has been pretty active in pushing for public inquiries into some particularly egregious alleged state abuses (and we remain concerned that the Government has still not established proper inquiries), we have not been active in the current round of soul searching involving the Eames-Bradley Consultative Group on the Past.

One of our general human rights principles, however, would be that justice cannot be sacrificed in the apparent pursuit of other – perfectly worthwhile – goals, such as reconciliation. Indeed, we would argue that the goals of truth and reconciliation are ultimately best served through the pursuit of justice for all victims of crimes and abuses, irrespective of the identity of the victim or the perpetrator.

Equally, everyone knows that the search for justice in many hundred of cases will prove to be futile. The Historical Enquiries Team appears to be discovering just this. Too much time has passed, too much evidence has been lost (or deliberately destroyed), too many people are unwilling to tell the truth before a court of law. How then can Northern Ireland best proceed?

A good initial think-piece, outlining these considerations in more detail, has been penned by Dr Brandon Hamber of INCORE, and is published in the current edition (online soon) of Just News, the monthly bulletin from CAJ. While awaiting this edition to be published online, you could check out Dr Hamber's 12-page submission to the Consultative Group on the Past, at his own website. Just News will be following up with a special edition in February.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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