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Northern Ireland: MPs must reject Troubles Bill which would sound 'death knell for justice' for conflict victims

Amnesty International has called on MPs to reject the controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, which it warned will create a deeply unfair two-tier justice system and introduce a de facto amnesty for grave human rights violations committed during the Northern Ireland conflict.

The Bill is due in parliament for its second reading today (Tuesday 24 May).

Grainne Teggart, Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International UK said:

“Alarm bells should be ringing for all who care about the rule of law and access to justice. This bill is a de facto amnesty designed to make perpetrators of heinous crimes untouchable.

“No matter how Government dress this up, the Bill is not designed to deliver for victims and promote reconciliation. Instead, it will remove victims’ access to the courts and send a message that they are less worthy of justice than victims of the same crimes in any other circumstances. This Bill would create a grossly unfair two-tier justice system.

“If enacted, it would also set a worrying precedent internationally, giving a green light to other countries that want to deny justice to victims of human rights violations.

“The ‘Troubles’ bill would sound the death knell for justice for victims of the Northern Ireland conflict. It is vital that MPs stand with victims and reject the Government’s move to legislate for impunity.”

Michael O’Hare, whose 12-year-old sister Majella O’Hare was shot dead by a British Army soldier in 1976 on her way to church and is seeking an independent investigation into the killing, said:

“When you’ve lost a loved one, the pain lives with you every day.

“My sister was a child, a sweet innocent girl whose life potential was never realised because of bullets from a soldier’s machine gun.

“This Bill and Government are only adding to the trauma that I and others are experiencing. The past is ever-present, we need real truth and justice for our loved ones.

“I will never stop fighting for Majella. We will fight this bill. We call on MPs to stand with us."

Notes to editors

In a new parliamentary briefing, Amnesty UK has called on parliamentarians to decisively reject the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

The briefing highlights fundamental flaws in the Bill which fails to discharge the UK’s human rights obligations. Points raised in the briefing include:

- A new body - which is a central element of the Bill - the ICRIR will not deliver investigations that comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. Instead, these will be replaced by light-touch ‘reviews’. A conditional amnesty will be offered to those who take part in the ICRIR . The draft legislation states the conditional amnesty must be granted if an individual gives an account, judged by a state appointed judicial figure, to be "true to the best of (their) knowledge and belief". Once granted, it cannot be revoked.

-Victims of conflict-related serious offences including sexual crimes such as rape will also be denied access to justice.

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