Commitments on child abuse welcome, but urgent action needed to give powers to statutory inquiry

NI Ministers urged to move more quickly to establish inquiry with proper powers of investigation

Amnesty International has said that the proposals announced today by the Northern Ireland Executive to probe allegations of widespread institutional child abuse have many welcome elements, but fall short of what is required to deliver justice and truth to victims.

Amnesty International had written to Ministers, 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:

"Much of the content of today’s announcement is welcome and is the culmination of a campaign by victims supported by Amnesty International and others. We look forward to studying the detail of any proposals and giving a considered response in due course, although a number of key questions remain.

“We welcome the speedy establishment of an advocacy service for all victims and the crucial commitment that there will be no immunity for those who perpetrated or covered up the abuse of Children's rights.

“The non-statutory inquiry or ‘acknowledgment forum’, as proposed by the Executive today as the starting point for this investigation of past abuses, will clearly lack the power to deliver truth and justice. That is why we welcome the commitment to pass legislation to give that inquiry the necessary powers to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of records.

“However, if the Executive was determined to establish this inquiry on a proper footing from day one, legislation could be passed in a matter of weeks, or months, rather than years. Indeed, it is our view that such delay could be avoided by using the existing powers of the Inquiries Act and we would ask that the Executive makes clear its reasons for not proceeding in this way.

“In addition, we regret that the Executive has failed to set out any clear system of redress for victims that would see the State bearing responsibility for its failures to protect Children's rights.

"There is much to welcome in today’s announcement, but we again urge the Executive, without undue delay, to establish the sort of statutory inquiry which has full power to deliver the truth, justice and accountability that the victims have waited so long to get."

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