Northern Ireland: Irish government urged to bring UK government to European Court if Troubles bill becomes law

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Amnesty and Troubles victims give evidence to joint Irish Parliamentary committee

Troubles Bill will deny victims right to justice

‘We urge the Irish government to commit to taking an inter-state case to the European Court of Human Rights if this Bill becomes law’ – Grainne Teggart

Amnesty International will today tell the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement that the Irish government should commit to taking an inter-state challenge in the European Court of Human Rights against the UK government’s Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill if it becomes law.

Amnesty and Troubles victims Michael O’Hare and Eugene Reavey will give evidence during this afternoon’s committee meeting. If the Troubles Bill is passed by the UK Parliament, it will deny victims the truth, justice and accountability to which they are entitled under international law. Perpetrators of serious crimes including murder will be shielded at the expense of victims’ rights.

The Troubles Bill is widely opposed by victims, victims’ groups, the Irish government, Northern Ireland political parties, Amnesty and other human rights organisations, and has prompted concern from the US Senate, the UN and Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights.

The UK’s Bill of Rights Bill, which has been widely criticised for more accurately being a rights removal bill, will also be discussed. Like the Troubles Bill, it would deny remedies for rights breaches and direct access to the courts as provided under the Good Friday Agreement.

The Troubles Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 23 November.

The committee session takes place on the same day as the UK’s human rights record is under the spotlight at the United Nations as part of its Universal Periodic Review. Amnesty has raised both the Troubles Bill and the UK government’s plan to scrap the Human Rights Act as matters of concern.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Deputy Director, said:

“The Irish government have been clear in their opposition to the Troubles Bill, this is very welcome. Regrettably, the UK government does not appear to be heeding the overwhelming opposition to the bill across our society and internationally.

“We urge the Irish government to commit to taking an inter-state case to the European Court of Human Rights if this bill becomes law. This isn’t without precedent; we’ve seen this previously in relation to torture. 

“The burden of legal challenge must not fall solely to victims who have already been grossly failed by the UK government. This bill shields perpetrators of murder, torture and other serious crimes at the expense of victims and will set a dangerous precedent internationally.

It is not too late for Rishi Sunak to do the right thing and vindicate rights rather than remove them.”

Amnesty and two relatives of the victims of the Troubles, Eugene Reavey and Michael O’Hare, will be giving evidence to the committee.

Michael O’Hare, whose sister Majella was shot dead aged 12 by a British Army soldier on 14 August 1976, while on her way to church in the Armagh village of Whitecross, said:

“It’s important that victims have a voice on the Troubles Bill, we do not want an amnesty, we want truth and justice. It is simply wrong that the UK government is ignoring the opposition to these plans. We hope the Irish government will do all in its power to challenge this bill.”

Eugene Reavey, brother of John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey, who were killed by the ‘Glenanne Gang’ in 1976, said:

“The UK government must drop this bill, it fails victims, has no support from victims and the wider community. For me, it adds to the 47 years of trauma I’ve already experienced. If the bill is pushed through, then we need the Irish government to challenge it.” 

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