CAJ shares the dismay of victims’ groups and others at the statement on legacy given by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) today.
This statement appears to envisage the abandonment of the structures proposed in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) in favour of a new ‘fast-track’ process, the detail of which is entirely unclear. It seems that this is a solo run by the UK government, which sits in direct contradiction to many commitments made in the past five years.
As recently as January 2020, in the New Decade, New Approach document, the UK Government reasserted its commitment to the Stormont House Agreement. Barely two months later, it appears to be reneging on this. There is a level of vagueness in the statement from the NIO and it is still possible that sensible proposals will emerge. However, in the absence of swift and positive clarification, it looks as if, for the British government, truth, justice and good faith come a poor second to grubby political calculation. Though dressed up as best meeting the needs of all victims, it has been apparent for some time that this shift in policy is really grounded in shielding the actions of security forces from meaningful investigation and scrutiny.
The same can be said for the approach to human rights violations by the UK military elsewhere, as embodied in today’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill. This bill limits the application of the Human Rights Act by courts in NI and therefore conflicts with the duty under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) to ensure that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is incorporated into NI law, with direct access to the courts and remedies for breaches.
Whatever NI proposals finally come forward, the British government needs to be aware that the struggle for justice and human rights and resistance to cover-ups and impunity will continue locally and internationally.
Please any direct media enquiries about this statement to Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coalition Coordinator. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9031 6000.