May 11, 2021Featured Article Pat Finucane Impunity Northern Ireland Article 2 Human Rights Act Right to Life International Security and Rule of Law Accountability and Access to Justice
(London, 11 May 2021) – The UK government risks creating impunity for serious conflict-related abuses in Northern Ireland such as killings, torture and cruel and degrading treatment, Rights and Security International (RSI) said today following the announcement of planned legislation in the Queen’s Speech that may ban prosecutions for “legacy” offenses allegedly committed before 1998.
‘Today’s announcement, and the likely content of the legislation, follow a long trend of failures by the UK to adequately investigate, prosecute and offer redress for human rights abuses that allegedly happened during the Troubles,’ said Jacob Smith, Research and Development Officer at RSI. ‘The measures hinted at today would deal yet another cruel blow to victims and families who have faced barriers to justice for almost half a century, and would not promote trust or reconciliation.’
The Government announced in today’s Queen’s Speech that it will introduce legislation over the course of the next year ‘to address the legacy of the past’ in Northern Ireland. This announcement follows the Government’s manifesto commitment to protect ex-soldiers in the UK from re-investigation and prosecution for events that occurred during the Troubles prior to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
Over the past year, the Government has repeatedly hinted that legislation similar to the highly criticised Overseas Operations Act will be brought forward to ‘bring peace to Northern Ireland’. Victims, politicians and human rights groups have expressed their concerns that, like the Overseas Operations Act, the new legislation will not solve the lack of prompt and effective investigations, will limit access to justice for victims, and may provide a de facto amnesty to perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Rights and Security International has criticised the Overseas Operations Act for creating potential impunity for abuses by UK forces overseas and has urged the government to ensure that legislation affecting accountability for abuses in Northern Ireland, or actions brought in the Northern Ireland courts, respects the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. The organisation expressed concern today that impunity for serious conflict-related abuses could become normalised in the UK.
‘For too long, the UK has stalled on its promises to provide justice for victims and families from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland, in violation of human rights and the country’s international legal obligations,’ concluded Smith. ‘Rather than creating barriers to accountability, the Government should make up for lost time by ensuring effective and independent investigations of human rights abuses allegedly committed during the Troubles.’
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