UK: "Lost" archives - Amnesty concern at possible loss of evidence of human rights violations in Northern Ireland

Amnesty calls on UK Government to recover lost files from Kew national archives

Amnesty International has expressed “deep concern” at news that the UK government has “lost” potentially crucial files from The National Archives at Kew related to possible human rights violations during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’.

The Guardian newspaper has reported that thousands of files have “vanished” from The National Archives in Surrey after being requested by government departments, including the Ministry of Defence, Home Office and Foreign Office. The newspaper reports that files include those related to the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and defence agreements with Malaya.

Government files held at Kew have previously been key to exposing details of human rights violations carried out by UK security forces in Northern Ireland. A 1977 letter from Home Secretary Merlyn Rees to Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, discovered in The National Archives, has shown how government ministers sanctioned the use of torture against internees in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, evidence that was withheld from the European Court of Human Rights.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“Amnesty is deeply concerned at reports that potentially crucial evidence of possible human rights violations in Northern Ireland and elsewhere is being allowed to vanish from The National Archives.

“Victims of human rights abuses in Northern Ireland have a right to full disclosure of what happened to them and their loved ones at the hands of the state.

“Accountability and justice demand that these files are among the evidence available to families, judges and historians in determining the truth of what happened here during three decades of violence. Theresa May must order a government-wide search for these ‘lost’ files and their restoration to their rightful place in the archives at Kew.

“Revelations that government departments are requisitioning and then misplacing crucial files, strengthen our view that decisions on the disclosure of findings by the proposed Historical Investigations Unit in Northern Ireland cannot be left to UK government ministers, as currently demanded by the Northern Ireland Office.”

Amnesty has previously said that the patchwork system of investigation established in Northern Ireland has proven inadequate for the task of uncovering the full truth about human rights violations committed by all sides during the three decades of violence. Amnesty is calling for a comprehensive mechanism to be set up to review the conflict as a whole, establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations and determine responsibility.

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