Dealing with the past in Northern Ireland

You may have noticed a lot of news coverage today of a new report launched in Northern Ireland today by the Consultative Group on the Past in Northern Ireland, most of it concerning recommendations that payments of £12,000 are made to the families of all those who were killed in the ‘troubles’, including those who belonged to armed groups (on either side). There were demonstrations and raised voices at the press conference (though I suppose ‘raised voices’ being worthy of note is a massive step forward in Northern Ireland given its bloody history).

The Group spoke strongly against any kind of general amnesty for past abuses, which we welcomed: despite our name, Amnesty doesn’t like amnesties, as we think people should be brought to justice for what they’ve done. But there was a worrying section in the report though, which said that victims could waive their right to see perpetrators brought to justice, in the hope that this might aid the discovery of the truth (by offering people the chance to impart information under a guarantee that it wouldn’t be used against them in a prosecution).

You shouldn’t have to choose between finding out who killed your relatives and having them brought to justice. You’re meant to get both at the same time.

My colleague Patrick in our Northern Ireland office, who has heroically been working on Amnesty’s response to the report from his sickbed today – get well soon Paddy! – knows a whole lot more about this subject than I, so I suggest interested readers check out his previous blog posts here.

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