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Northern Ireland: Amnesty gives cautious welcome to consultation on legacy

Amnesty International has today given a cautious welcome to the Northern Ireland Office’s publication of a consultation on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past.

The proposals mirror that of the Stormont House Agreement in 2014 which laid out some agreed structures for the establishment of truth, justice and reconciliation mechanisms. However, the Agreement had a number of flaws which needed to be addressed, including failing to account for the rights of those tortured and injured during the conflict.

Today’s consultation document repeats that failing and contains other glaring gaps which are of significant concern.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty Campaigns Manager for Northern Ireland, said:

“Whilst we welcome the long-awaited publication of this consultation, the proposals fall short of a human rights compliant approach to dealing with the past.

“Regrettably, the proposals neglect the right to investigations of those tortured and injured in the conflict. Any measure of redress for these victims has been left to a Northern Ireland Executive which doesn’t exist.”

A significant stumbling block previously with one of the proposed mechanisms – the historical investigations unit (HIU) – has been the UK Government’s insistence on retaining a national security veto for the onward disclosure of material and information from the HIU to families.

Grainne Teggart added:

“The consultation includes a national security veto for the Government on onward disclosure of information. Any Government insistence on this could be an unacceptable level of interference, compromise the work of the HIU, and diminish victims’ confidence in its ability to deliver.  Decision making on such sensitive issues should be independent of Government.

“In addition, the £150 million being made available to fund these mechanisms is a gross underestimate of what is required. If adequate funding is not put in place, these institutions will find themselves unable to fully deliver for victims.”

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