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Northern Ireland Legacy Bill: Victims' rights sacrificed to shield perpetrators

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Bill represents a disturbing interference in the justice system

‘This legislation is shameful, we will oppose it every step of the way’ - Michael O’Hare

Now is the time for the UK Parliament to decide if it will allow government to cast aside the rule of law and sacrifice victims’ rights to protect perpetrators’ - Grainne Teggart

Responding to the publication today of the controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, Amnesty International UK has said the Bill is a disturbing interference in the justice system and that victims’ rights have been dismissed in favour of protecting perpetrators.

Grainne Teggart, Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International UK in Northern Ireland, said:

“This bill is a disturbing interference in the justice system. It is clear the government has not shifted from its plan to sacrifice victims’ rights to shield perpetrators. Access to justice for serious crimes will be permanently removed in ‘Troubles’ related cases.

“Despite thinly veiled attempts to dress this up as something new, there is no real departure from the government’s intention to legislate for a de facto amnesty. Nothing about this Bill is victim-centred and instead dismisses victims’ clear objections to the government closing down paths to justice.

“Now is the time for the UK Parliament to decide if it will allow the government to cast aside the rule of law and sacrifice victims’ rights to protect perpetrators. That would send a very troubling message to victims here as well as to human rights abusers all over the world.”

International concern over plans

Concern over the proposed immunity plans has been expressed by the US Congress, the UN and the proposals are unanimously opposed by victims’ groups.

Killing of 12-year-old Majella O’Hare

The proposals have been condemned by Michael O’Hare, brother of Majella O’Hare, a 12-year-old girl shot dead by a British Army soldier in 1976. On 14 August 1976, Majella was on her way to church with a group of friends in the Armagh village of Whitecross. They walked past an army patrol and, when she was about 20 or 30 yards beyond it, a soldier shot Majella with his machine gun. In 2011, the Ministry of Defence apologised for the killing, but no-one has ever been held accountable for it.

Michael O’Hare is being supported by Amnesty in seeking an independent investigation into the killing. He said:  

“We do not want this. The bill gives no consideration for the rights and needs of victims. It tells us the lives of our loved ones did not matter. I need all those in power to stand with me and other victims and reject this bill - deliver us the truth and justice we have fought so long and hard for. 

“The passage of time has not diminished the devastation of losing my sister Majella to bullets from a soldier’s machine gun. This legislation is shameful, we will oppose it every step of the way.”

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