Northern Ireland: NGO joint statement on political talks and dealing with the past - Human Rights Day, 2014

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, and the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, are due to visit Belfast this Thursday, December 11, as part of the ongoing negotiations and discussions including on dealing with the past, flags and parades.

On the occasion of Human Rights Day 2014, we, as NGOs working in the field of human rights and/or supporting those injured and bereaved by the conflict, welcome every effort by both the governments and all the parties to the Executive to find agreement on a way forward in terms of addressing the past.

A human rights compliant framework must underpin any emergent mechanism from the current talks process aimed at dealing with the past. Any mechanism for dealing with the past should take account of all those who lost their lives as a result of the conflict regardless of where they were killed.

The template for addressing the past can be found in recommendations by the Consultative Group on the Past (Eames/Bradley, 2009), and in the draft proposal developed by Dr. Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O’Sullivan (and published by the NI Executive on 31 December 2013).

The principles of these two papers have rightly been guided by human rights compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is our view that all too often for the sake of political expediency, meaningful discussion of the past or legacy gets put on a back-burner in order for other deals to be brokered. And yet, those other deals, typically, tend to fall apart because of the underlying failure to address the past and the divisions that continue to exist as a result.

Addressing the past and getting it right is important not just for victims’ right to truth and remedy, but is crucially important to the wider aspirations of societal reconciliation, healing and recovery. 

Therefore there is an onus on all those involved in the talks to ensure that a comprehensive and human rights compliant outcome on the past is both achieved and adequately resourced.

Amnesty International 
Committee on the Administration for Justice (CAJ)
Justice for the Forgotten 
Pat Finucane Centre 
Relatives for Justice (RFJ)
Rights Watch UK (RWUK)

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