Promoting Justice /
Protecting Rights

CAJ has welcomed a statement from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, released earlier today, which raises serious questions about compatibility of the UK’s legacy bill with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Commissioner Dunja Mijatović’s issued the statement following a five-day visit to the UK, including Belfast. The statement is available in full here.

Daniel Holder of CAJ said “This is a timely intervention from the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović, who rightly raises serious questions as to whether the UK’s legacy bill will even meet basic human rights legal standards for investigations.”

What exactly does the statement say?
On the legacy bill, the statement says the following: “The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill raises serious questions about the extent to which the proposed mechanism to review Troubles-related cases is compliant with ECHR standards on independent and effective investigations. The possibility to grant immunity from prosecution on a low evidentiary bar raises concerns that this could lead to impunity. While the proposals are ostensibly aimed at promoting information recovery and reconciliation, the Commissioner underlines that justice measures play an important role in achieving truth in Northern Ireland. The virtually unanimous, cross-community rejection of the proposals also casts doubt over their potential to contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland.”

The Commissioner is quoted as saying that the proposals fail to put victims at the heart of legacy: “unilaterally shutting down options that many victims and families value greatly as part of their way of dealing with the past ignores their needs and wishes, and is causing many of them deep distress”.

Additionally, the Commissioner raises concerns about other matters, including underfunding of the NI Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), as well as the proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act, despite effective protection of the ECHR being “one of the foundations of the peace settlement in Northern Ireland”.

Contact Robyn Scott, Communications & Equality Coordinator, with any media enquiries on robyn@caj.org.uk or 075 1994 1203.

Footnotes:

  • The Council of Europe is not the EU, it is a distinct institution that includes the European Court of Human Rights. More information here: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal.
  • The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill can be read here.
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