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Northern Ireland: Government must reject Defence Committee proposals to legislate for impunity

Amnesty calls on UK Government to guarantee truth and justice for all Northern Ireland victims

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee’s call for an end to investigations for killings and torture carried out by members of the UK armed services during three decades of political violence in Northern Ireland is an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental rights to justice, Amnesty International said today.

Amnesty International has called on the UK government to reject proposals from the House of Commons Defence Select Committee to introduce a statute of limitations to block the investigation of alleged crimes committed by soldiers and other security forces personnel in Northern Ireland.

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

“The Defence Committee’s call today would in effect be the granting of a blanket amnesty for human rights abuses committed by former members of the security forces in Northern Ireland. It would be an utter betrayal of victims’ fundamental right to justice. Any such move by the UK Government would fly in the face of international human rights standards and perpetuate impunity.

“All victims of killings and other human rights violations and abuses from Northern Ireland’s recent past have a human right to proper independent investigations, with the possibility of prosecutions to follow where the evidence leads. This is true, whatever the identity of the victim and whatever the identity of the perpetrator. Any attempt at political interference with that fundamental principle debases natural justice and would be in breach of the UK’s international human rights commitments.”

In a report published today, the Defence Committee recommended: “… the enactment of a statute of limitations, covering all Troubles-related incidents, up to the signing of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which involved former members of the Armed Forces.”  The Committee report went on to say: “… we would encourage the next Government to extend this provision to include former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other former security personnel.”

Amnesty’s 2013 report, ‘Northern Ireland: Time to deal with the past’, 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 violence.

The human rights organisation is calling for a comprehensive mechanism to be set up to review the conflict as a whole, establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations and determine responsibility.

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