Amnesty welcomes commitments on inquiry into institutional child abuse

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said:

"We have long urged the Northern Ireland Executive to establish an independent, impartial and effective inquiry into historical institutional child abuse.

"Therefore, we welcome the announcement today of further progress towards the start of the Inquiry process and the naming of Judge Sir Anthony Hart as Inquiry Chair as well as the members of the panel of the Acknowledgment Forum.

"The inquiry must pronounce not solely on those who committed abuse, but examine the responsibility of all those who either failed to protect Children's rights, or acted to facilitate or cover up abuse.

"It must also identify the systemic failures underlying the abuse and the circumstances which allowed it to take place.

"We welcome the Executive commitment to ensure the Inquiry will have the necessary powers and time to compel the attendance of witnesses and to order the production of records.

"We remain concerned, however, that victims of institutional child abuse in the years before 1945 or after 1995 face exclusion from this Inquiry. We note too, that the issue of redress, including compensation, has been put on the long finger, and that will remain an issue of concern to many victims, some of whom are now of advanced age.

"Equally, it is clear that the Executive currently has no plans for a similar process of inquiry for victims of clerical child abuse outside institutions. This means, for instance, that some of the Northern Ireland victims of Fr Brendan Smyth's serial child abuse will be covered by this Inquiry, while others will not. To those victims, that will seem inherently unjust. This is now an issue which should receive urgent political attention.
"Amnesty International will now seek an early meeting with the Chair and members of the Inquiry panel, in order to clarify the scope and powers of the process and its compliance with international human rights standards."

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