'NI Ministers must not betray child abuse victims', says Amnesty's Patrick Corrigan
Amnesty International has issued a warning to Northern Ireland Executive Ministers not to betray the victims of institutional child abuse by establishing an inquiry without adequate powers to investigate allegations of systemic abuse.
The Executive is due to meet tomorrow (Thursday, 1pm) in Belfast to consider recommendations from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister on investigating widespread allegations of child abuse at institutions across Northern Ireland over many decades.
Some victims fear that their demands for a statutory inquiry, with adequate powers of investigation, are about to be ignored by Executive Ministers in favour of a less rigorous approach.
Amnesty International has written to Ministers today, reminding them of victims' demand for a statutory inquiry with sufficient powers to investigate serious criminal wrong-doing and urging them to establish such an inquiry without further undue delay.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
"In order to investigate some of the worst crimes imaginable against Children's rights - rape, sexual and physical assault, gross neglect - Northern Ireland needs an inquiry which has the authority to obtain all the information it needs, including powers to compel the attendance of witnesses, and to order the production of records. An inquiry without the powers to discover the truth is destined to fail and would amount to a betrayal of victims.
"Amnesty International would regard the establishment of an inquiry without such powers as being a grossly inadequate response by the Executive to allegations of systemic failure to protect Children's rights from child abuse. Earlier this week we reported about similar historic institutional child abuse in the Republic of Ireland. Victims in Northern Ireland are no less deserving of truth, justice and redress than their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland.
"We urge the Executive to deliver the sort of statutory inquiry which victims have asked for - one with full powers to discover the truth about the abuse they suffered. Specifically, victims have asked for an inquiry to be established under the Inquiries Act (2005). Amnesty International supports that call, and further calls on any inquiry, once established, to comply with international human rights law, in order to deliver, truth, justice and accountability for the victims."