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Northern Ireland: Opportunity to deal with the past must not be squandered

Amnesty International warned today that the opportunity to deal with the past in Northern Ireland must not be squandered following a lack of agreement at the end of multi-party negotiations, chaired by Dr Richard Haass.
In talks which ended during the night, Northern Ireland’s five main political parties failed to agree to a new approach to dealing with the legacy of three decades of human rights violations and abuses, among other issues. 
Amnesty is calling for the publication of draft proposals from the inter-party talks and for negotiations to recommence in the New Year.
Amnesty’s Northern Ireland Director Patrick Corrigan said: 
“We are disappointed the parties failed to reach an agreement on dealing with the past, but determined to continue to press for truth and justice for all victims in Northern Ireland. 
“What progress has been achieved by the parties and the Haass team towards agreeing a new approach to the past must not be squandered or obscured by disagreement on other issues. 
“The parties should now publish the draft proposals on dealing with the past, clarify where areas of disagreement still exist and give victims and the wider public a chance to respond. Then the politicians should get back round a talks table and not get up again until they have reached agreement.” 
Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:    
“Too many victims have been failed for too long by existing mechanisms established to investigate the past. That failure of political will must now end. 
“Despite their ultimate failure, the Haass talks have been an important step towards dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. That momentum should not now be lost.  There is a crucial role for the UK and Irish governments in guaranteeing that this will not be the case. 
“Any new mechanism to investigate past human rights abuses and violations must be guided by human rights principles - it must be independent, well-resourced and have proper powers of compulsion.”   
“Victims of human rights violations and abuses must now be put at the heart of further developing Richard Haass’ draft proposals on the past so that any new mechanism has their trust and the credibility and the legitimacy to carry out its work.” 
In 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 has proven inadequate for 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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