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Northern Ireland: Compel retired police officers to assist police ombudsman investigations

Amnesty International has called for the Northern Ireland Executive to give the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland powers to compel retired police officers to assist in its investigations.

The call comes after an announcement by the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association (NIRPOA) that it will “no longer encourage its members to co-operate” with historical enquiries, into alleged breaches of human rights, conducted by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI).

'Today’s announcement underscores our call for the Police Ombudsman to be given statutory powers to compel retired police officers to submit to interview.

'What is clear, both from Amnesty’s research, and today’s retrograde step by the Retired Police Officers Association to withdraw cooperation from investigations, is that the Ombudsman’s office needs stronger powers to get at the truth.

'Cooperation with inquiries should now become compulsory, not optional, for retired police officers. We call on the Northern Ireland Executive to deliver powers which will ultimately help bereaved family members to discover the truth about what happened to their loved ones.'
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK

Amnesty published a report in September,  'Northern Ireland: Time to deal with the past', which found that the patchwork system of investigation that has been established in Northern Ireland has proven inadequate for the task of establishing the full truth about human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides during the three decades of political violence.

Amnesty continues to call for a comprehensive mechanism to address the past, establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations and determine responsibility. The Amnesty report also calls for specific reforms to the OPONI, including providing it with powers to compel retired officers to submit to interview.

Further information

The NIRPOA today published a report responding to the July 2013 OPONI report into the “Good Neighbour” bombing on 31 August 1988 in Derry/Londonderry, in which two people, Sean (Eugene) Dalton and Sheila Lewis, were killed instantly, and Gerald Curran sustained serious injuries and died nine months later. The July 2013 OPONI report found that the RUC did have information that there was an IRA bomb in the property, but did nothing to warn those living in the area of the danger, and that the RUC therefore failed to fulfil their duty to protect the public and uphold Sean Dalton’s right to life. The Ombudsman further concluded that the police failed in their duty to properly investigate the deaths of Sean Dalton and Sheila Lewis.

The July 2013 OPONI report was itself the product of a decision to re-investigate a 2010 OPONI investigation into the same incident, which had its conclusions reversed under questionable circumstances. It was also a key example of the new Police Ombudsman’s efforts to restore trust and confidence in the OPONI through a process of reforms.

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