Northern Ireland Troubles Bill

The UK government are letting people get away with murder and blocking victims in the UK from getting justice. The law - known as the Troubles Act - is deeply damaging and will cause untold distress to victims.

The week that the Bill was due back in Parliament, we lit up Westminster with the victims of the Northern Ireland conflict to project the message loud & clear: Scrap the Troubles Bill.

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What do people REALLY think of the Government's plans?

More people needed to know about these plans. So to show the Government what people REALLY think when they hear about the plans, we took to the streets of Liverpool & Belfast to find out…

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What were "the Troubles"?

The Troubles was a brutal conflict that engulfed communities in Northern Ireland & beyond. It took place between the 1960s and 1990s. The conflict claimed the lives of over 3,600 people and injured 40,000. In most cases, no one has ever been held responsible and the truth of what happened has gone uncovered.

After decades of bloody conflict, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 led to a largely successful peace settlement which has lasted to this day.

Timeline

What are the Government's plans?

Murder is murder, whether it happened 5, 15 or 50 years ago in Northern Ireland or anywhere else. Torture is a crime with absolute prohibition under international law. The UK Government is trying to let people off with murder, torture and other serious crimes through the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill. 

Below we've answered a few of your questions about the Bill, to help you understand more easily what the Bill means, why it's been created, and what it means for the future.

  • What does the NI Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill mean?

Over decades, there has been a piecemeal approach to dealing with the past. Many victims are still waiting for justice. The UK Government is now betraying those victims by permanently removing any chance of truth, justice and accountability. The Bill protects perpetrators and means that if they give an account of conflict related events best to their knowledge and belief, that they will be given immunity from prosecution.

For example, if they confess to murdering someone during the Troubles conflict, they will be given impunity. 

  • What is wrong with the NI Troubles Bill exactly then?

Put simply, A LOT. If the Bill comes into place, it will:

- Give impunity to murderers, and those responsible for torture
- Block victims from accessing justice via legal action
- Be a significant interference in the justice system 
- Breach the Good Friday Agreement
- Go against existing agreements between the UK and Irish Governments and NI Political Parties on legacy
- Create a two-tier justice system in the UK
- Fail to deliver human rights compliant investigations
- Set a deeply concerning international precedent - signalling to other States that they too can ignore their human rights obligations

  • What do victims and Amnesty International think about this?

Victims and Amnesty International and believe that it must be scrapped. Victims have told Amnesty that the Bill is a betrayal of their rights and loved ones.

  • When will the Bill be law/what are the next steps?

The bill has reached 2nd reading in the House of Lords where it will face resistance. However, the Government has a majority to push this Bill through. When the Bill becomes law, it will inevitably be challenged in the courts for its lack of human rights compliance. 

  • How does this affect global justice?

The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and G7. The Bill sends a wrong message to the international community and sets a dangerous precedent as it violates our domestic and international human rights obligations. 

  • How does this affect me?

The issue is bigger than Northern Ireland. Firstly, the Troubles were not limited to Northern Ireland, victims in other parts of the UK will be denied justice too. This is the government giving impunity to those responsible for murder and torture in the UK. If the Government get their way, and this becomes law, it will show to the world that the UK government does not stand for the rule of law, will significantly interfere in the justice system, ignore its human rights obligations and, in this Bill, protect perpetrators at the expense of victims. 

  • What can I do to help?

Amnesty International UK will be working to raise awareness of the #TroublesBill. Thank you to the nearly 12,000 of you emailed the Prime Minister directly calling on him to scrap the Bill. We will continue to challenge the Bill while it passes through Parliament.

Scale of Opposition to the Bill

While the UK Government spearheads forward with this Bill at breakneck speed, it disregards the opinions of most important stakeholders who either have not been consulted at all, or had their opinions ignored. 

  • Victims' family members and¬†groups, trauma specialists, and other human rights organisations who advocate for victims' rights have all expressed disappointment about the lack of consideration for victims in the Troubles bill.
     
  • In terms of political parties in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Assembly unanimously opposed the the UK Government's Troubles Bill in 2021.
     
  • In terms of consenus parties in Westminster, all opposition parties have voted against the Bill in all readings, iterations, and amendments proposed until now. The Bill is only supported by Conservative party politicians.¬†
     
  • The Republic of Ireland government has condemned the Bill as a "get out of jail" plan for Troubles-related crimes.
     
  • A study by the team at Queen's University Belfast's School of Law and the Committee on the Administration of Justice¬†has found that the Bill breaches international law and the Belfast agreement.
     
  • The UN Special Rapporteurs have expressed serious concern about the Bill, finding UK Government's plans¬†to be in "flagrant violation of its international obligations".
     
  • The Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, has warned that that the approach is not victim-centered, and that it would "undermine human rights protections".
     
  • A bi-partisan group of 21¬†US Congress members have also made a public statement opposing the Troubles Bill while¬†calling on the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to speak out against the plans.

Renowned Actor, Ciar√°n Hinds Joins Calls on Liz Truss to scrap ‚ÄėTroubles‚Äô Bill

The Oscar-nominated Belfast actor Ciar√°n Hinds has written an open letter to Prime Minister Liz Truss calling on her to drop plans to push ahead with the Government‚Äôs deeply controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, which he said would ‚Äėpermanently cut off any prospect of justice for the families and loved ones of those killed during the Troubles‚Äô. In the letter to the Prime Minister, the acclaimed actor urges a rethink on the Bill which he says victims of the Troubles are unanimously opposed to.

Victims Of The Troubles

Aidan McAnespie - The Last Victim To Be Granted Due Process

Aidan McAnespie was fatally shot by a solider on his way to a Gaelic football match in Northern Ireland in '88 during the Troubles. 34 years later, the killer finally faced justice and was convicted of manslaughter.

The trial represents the due process that the UK Government is seeking to shut down for victims, by introducing the new Troubles law which would introduce a de-facto amnesty for human rights violations committed during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Soon, victims could be permanently denied justice. But,¬†‚Äúevery grieving family deserves a chance for justice.‚ÄĚ Sean McAnespie, brother of Aidan McAnespie

Majella O'Hare - Innocent 12 Year-Old Girl Shot In The Back By A Soldier

Amnesty International UK is also supporting the brother of a 12-year-old girl, Majella O'Hare, who was shot in the back by a soldier in 1976. The loss had a devastating impact on her family and the grossly inadequate investigation at the time only added to the trauma. Despite a letter of apology from the Ministry of Defence in 2011, no independent investigation has ever taken place, and no one has been held accountable for Majella's killing.

Amnesty International UK is supporting Michael O'Hare in calling for an independent investigation ahead of the 44th anniversary of her death. In July 2020 a letter was sent to the Legacy Investigation Branch of the PSNI requesting the Chief Constable ensure a prompt and independent investigation into her death. 

Find out more about the campaign for Majella O'Hare here.