Northern Ireland: “Seize opportunity to deal with the past”

Amnesty International has called for urgent agreement by the Northern Ireland political parties and the UK and Irish governments on a new approach to dealing with the past in the region.

The renewed call comes as party and government representatives meet in Belfast to address the issue. A UK government paper for the Talks, seen by the BBC, has revealed that the current approach to addressing legacy issues from the Northern Ireland conflict costs more than £50 million every year.

Amnesty said the money should be spent on a single, effective process, rather than on the current piecemeal approach to investigating the past.

The organisation is calling for a comprehensive mechanism to be set up to review the conflict as a whole and establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations. Such a mechanism would also examine abuses suffered by those seriously injured, and victims of torture and other ill-treatment, which have too often been excluded from existing processes. 

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said:

“The current system for addressing the troubles in Northern Ireland is not meeting the needs of victims or justice. 

“Instead of spending £50 million per year on a flawed and piecemeal approach to the past, resources should be invested in a new overarching and independent mechanism to investigate past abuses.

“The two governments and the Northern Ireland parties have a golden opportunity to deliver truth and justice for the victims of human rights violations and abuses after decades of violence and years of delay. They must seize this opportunity.

“Proposals which emerged from the Haass Talks are not perfect, but they offer a firm foundation on which progress should now be made. 

“Too many victims have been failed for too long by existing mechanisms established to investigate the past. That failure of political will must now end. 

“The UK government has a key role to play, including by providing the financial backing to see that the process can now go forward and cooperating fully with investigations. The Irish government too must provide full cooperation. And armed groups must come clean about their involvement in past abuses."

Last year Amnesty published a report - Northern Ireland: Time to deal with the past - which found that the previous patchwork system of investigations in Northern Ireland have proven inadequate to the task of establishing the full truth about human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence.

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