Northern Ireland: Haass proposals are 'once in a generation opportunity'

‘The Haass proposals are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deal with the past by delivering truth and justice for victims’
Patrick Corrigan

Amnesty International has called for the implementation of the 'Haass Talks' draft Agreement on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, describing the former US diplomat’s proposal as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for victims of human rights violations and abuses to secure truth and justice.

Publishing its six-page response to the section of the draft Agreement addressing how to “deal with the past”, Amnesty International called on the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK and Irish governments to take forward the proposals by drawing up the necessary legislation to ensure they are fully human rights-compliant.

Amnesty’s examination of the draft Agreement has identified some areas of concern, but the organisation believes the proposals nevertheless provide a good basis for the creation of new truth and justice mechanisms for victims and their families. Amnesty says any such mechanism should be developed in line with international human rights standards, and must avoid replicating Northern Ireland’s current “patchwork” approach to accountability.

The draft Agreement, published on 31 December, contains comprehensive proposals on dealing with the past. The draft’s Agreement’s publication followed several months of intense negotiations between the five Executive parties in Northern Ireland, chaired by former US diplomat Richard Haass. The proposals were made public in draft form, as there was no consensus among the parties to the talks when the deadline for Agreement expired at the end of 2013.

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

“The Haass proposals are a once-in-a-generation opportunity for delivering truth and justice for the victims of human rights violations and abuses after decades of violence and years of delay.

“The proposals are not perfect, but they offer a firm foundation on which progress can be made. Political squabbling must not scupper this opportunity. Northern Ireland needs to build on the momentum provided by the Haass Talks and not be side-tracked by wrangling on other issues.

“The UK government has a key role to play, including by cooperating fully with any bodies set up and providing the financial backing to see that the process can now go forward. The Irish government too must provide full cooperation. And the time has arrived for armed groups to come clean.

“Those that have been most affected by the three dark decades of violence will not forgive politicians or parties to the conflict who let the past continue to cast a shadow on the future by passing up this opportunity.”

Last September Amnesty published an 82-page 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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Amnesty public statement responding to the Haass proposals
Report - Northern Ireland: Time to deal with the past