Victims’ group and MP call for repeal of legacy act after human rights breach ruling

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Derry victims’ campaigners have joined Colum Eastwood in calling for the British Government to repeal its controversial ‘Legacy Act’ after a High Court judge ruled some of its provisions are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Pat Finucane Centre said London must scrap the NI Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023 after Mr. Justice Colton ruled its provision of conditional immunity from prosecution for Troubles-era crimes breached articles 2 and 3 of the ECHR.

Articles 2 and 3 provide, respectively, for a person’s right to life to be protected, and for a person not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

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In a separate finding Mr. Justice Colton did, however, rule that the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR) has sufficient independence and powers to effectively investigate Troubles-related deaths and offences.

A protest against the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, at Guildhall Square prior to its passage last year.A protest against the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, at Guildhall Square prior to its passage last year.
A protest against the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, at Guildhall Square prior to its passage last year.

PFC claimed: “The British government tried to sell this legislation as a way to promote reconciliation and truth recovery. They incentivised perpetrators with the promise of immunity, while really wanting to protect veterans.

"The ruling that this amnesty scheme breaches article 2 and article 3 of ECHR destroys any semblance that this legislation could work.

"Victims have said they won’t engage with the ICRIR and following this ruling there is no benefit for perpetrators to engage with the ICRIR.

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“Although the judge said the ICRIR is capable of providing an article 2 and article 3 compliant investigation, we anticipate this issue will be challenged and don’t believe it will offer any reassurance to families seeking answers.

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Britain’s legacy act immunity provisions unlawfully breach victims’ human rights...

“It’s time for the government to listen to victims and repeal this Act.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "This is an important moment for victims and survivors who have been resolutely opposed to the approach taken by the British Government which prioritises the interests of soldiers, state agencies and paramilitaries over the needs of those who lost the most.

“No political party in NI supports the British Government’s attempt to shut down truth, justice and accountability for victims and survivors.

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"In a society as fractious as ours, particularly when it comes to matters related to the past, that is as strong an indication as there could possibly be that this legislation was wrong headed, insensitive to the needs of victims and doomed to failure.”

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said: “The Government welcomes the Court’s findings that the ICRIR is operationally independent from Government and has necessary powers to carry out reviews in accordance with the state’s obligations with Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“This is a complex judgment. We need to consider carefully the judgment in full, and our next steps.

“We remain committed to implementing the legacy act and delivering the ICRIR to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the Troubles by giving them more information about what happened to their loved ones."

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An ICRIR spokesperson, said: “In its judgment, the Court has confirmed that the Commission is independent and is capable of carrying out investigations which are compliant with the ECHR. The Commission is therefore properly and lawfully established.

“We will study the court’s judgment in detail and seek to reflect this as we refine our proposals to carry out independent investigations from this summer.”