Northern Ireland/ USA: Amnesty welcomes congressional call on UK legacy proposals
Amnesty International has welcomed a letter from 21 members of congress to the US Secretary of State calling for a public statement of opposition to the UK Government’s plans to introduce a de facto amnesty for Northern Ireland conflict-related human rights abuses.
The announcement and letter to Secretary Blinken can be found at the bottom of this release.
Plans to undermine the rule of law and put perpetrators of violations committed during the ‘Troubles’ above the law and beyond accountability have been met with strong opposition from victims and relatives.
Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty UK, said:
“We strongly welcome this intervention from members of congress which adds to the noisy chorus of opposition to the UK Government’s plans to permanently deny justice to victims of the ‘Troubles’.
“The UK government finds itself increasingly isolated on the international stage with its intent to sacrifice the rights of victims for the sake of protecting perpetrators of human rights abuses.
“We hope President Biden’s administration will heed the calls in this letter and publicly state their opposition to the UK government’s attempt to close down paths to justice forever.”
Michael O’Hare, whose 12yr old sister Majella was shot dead by a British Army soldier in 1976 and is being supported by Amnesty in seeking an independent investigation into the killing, said:
“It is heartening to see strong public support from Congress for victims seeking truth and justice.
“We would like to see the same public opposition from Secretary Blinken. All those with influence must play their part in ensuring the UK government heed the outcry at these proposals, abandon these plans and urgently establish mechanisms that will give my family and all victims truth, justice and accountability.”
Press release from Congressman Tom Suozzi
Suozzi Leads Bipartisan Letter Standing up Against Human Rights Abuses in Northern Ireland
Bipartisan letter to the Secretary of State urging him to speak out against UK proposal is supported by 21 Members of Congress and Amnesty International
Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Suozzi (D – NY03) led a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in addressing a letter to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to speak out against proposed amnesty for human rights abuses committed by both state and non-state actors during the “troubles” in Northern Ireland.
The “troubles” was a 30-year violent sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland that ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. This past summer, the United Kingdom announced plans to introduce legislation that would result in de facto amnesty, ending all prosecutions for troubles-related killings up to April 1998. The proposed amnesty represents a major setback for thousands of victims seeking justice for nearly 50 years.
“As Co-Chairman of the Friends of Ireland Caucus in the U.S. Congress, I am pleased to join a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in signing this important and timely letter. Like every political party on the island, we are strongly opposed to proposed UK legislation that would give amnesty to human rights abuses committed during the Troubles. I look forward to Secretary Blinken’s response, “said Chairman Richatd E. Neal.
“We strongly welcome this intervention from Members of Congress which adds to the noisy chorus of opposition to the UK Government’s plans to permanently deny justice to victims of the ‘Troubles’,” said Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International UK
In the letter to Secretary Blinken, the Members of Congress express their concern “at the continual undermining of the rule of law, Good Friday Agreement and the ongoing process of peace and reconciliation.” The letter, which is supported by Amnesty International, was led by Suozzi, Congressman Richard Neal and Congressman Mike Kelly, co-chairs of the Friends of Ireland Caucus, and signed by a bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers, urged Blinken to call on the UK government “to abandon this unilateral action and establish mechanisms to deal with the legacy issues of the past that will discharge the UK’s human rights obligations.”
The letter can be found here and below:
The Honorable Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken,
We write to express our concerns regarding the United Kingdom’s plans, announced on July 14, 2021, to introduce legislation that will result in de facto amnesty for human rights abuses committed by both state and non-state actors during the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ and call on you to urgently make a public statement of opposition to these proposals.
The UK Government plans for dealing with the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland will close all paths to justice for victims denying them the truth, justice and accountability to which they are entitled. The recently published UK government command paper indicates legislation will end all Northern Ireland conflict-related ‘judicial activity’ - i.e., current and future prosecutions, inquests, civil actions, and investigations. These proposals breach the UK’s international and domestic human rights obligations, unduly interfere in the justice system, undermine the rule of law and dismiss victims’ suffering.
We note the unequivocal rejection of the United Kingdom’s plans by the Irish Government, Northern Ireland political parties, human rights organizations including Amnesty International, victims and victims’ groups and many others.
For decades, victims of human rights abuses, and their families in Northern Ireland, have been failed denied justice by a piecemeal approach to dealing with the past. Human rights monitors, activists and victims’ families have long pressed authorities to institute credible mechanisms capable of vindicating the rights of victims. Instead, the UK Government have declared their intent to remove all remedies available under the law.
It is clear that the UK Government’s primary motivation is to ensure security forces are placed beyond accountability for the human rights abuses committed during the ‘Troubles’.
We wish to express deep concern at the continual undermining of the rule of law, Good Friday Agreement and ongoing process of peace and reconciliation.
People in Northern Ireland have been clear in their rejection of a de facto amnesty. Victims’ families have had decades of justice delayed and now, if these plans become law, they will have justice denied - permanently.
Given the role the US has, and continues to play, in supporting the Good Friday Agreement through peace and reconciliation, we urge you to make a public statement of unequivocal rejection of these proposals and work with your counterparts in the United Kingdom and Ireland to resolve this matter and ensure the past is dealt with in a victim centered, rights respecting way.
The time to act is now; the UK Government is expected to progress legislation in the near future in the UK Parliament.
Together, we urge you to call on the UK Government to abandon this unilateral action and establish mechanisms to deal with the legacy issues of the past that will discharge the UK’s human rights obligations.