Northern Ireland: Amnesty International responds to Secretary of State on ‘dealing with the past’

Decisions on onward disclosure to families must be made independently, not by government” – Patrick Corrigan

Responding to a speech in Belfast this morning by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers MP, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said:

“Of course, there are certain legitimate grounds where disclosure of sensitive information should not happen, for example if it could put someone’s life at risk.  However, it is vital that decisions on what is disclosed are made independently, not by government.

“Government ministers cannot be allowed to put themselves in the position of judge and jury when it is the state itself whose actions are in the dock.

“Such a clear conflict of interest risks fatally undermining public confidence in any new process of investigating the past.

“It is no concession by the Secretary of State to say that families can challenge the government’s decision in court – that is their right in any case. The fact is that it should not be government making these decisions in the first place.

“‘National security’ cannot be used a blanket to smother the truth about human rights violations during the Troubles.

“A deal on the past is still possible – if genuine political will is there – but this isn’t it.”

Amnesty also raised concerns over the £150 million pledged by UK government for historic investigations, which it warned will almost certainly prove insufficient to the task.

The organisation said that the government must fund legacy mechanisms at a level that is realistic and necessary to meet their obligations to victims of serious human rights violations.

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