NIO ‘gaslighting’ victims with claims legacy bill amendments address their concernsJanuary 23, 2023
The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and academic colleagues have strongly criticised claims by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) that the latest amendments to the UK’s legacy bill address some of ‘principal concerns’ about the legislation.
Amendments to the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill were tabled by Lord Caine on Wednesday 18 January 2023. The bill is set to reach ‘Committee Stage’ in the House of Lords this Tuesday (24 January 2023).
In a statement on the amendments (1), NIO claimed that they seek to “address some of the principal concerns raised since the Bill’s introduction, including by victims and survivors”.
Daniel Holder, CAJ Deputy Director, said: “Despite the NIO claims, these amendments do not even attempt to address the concerns raised by victims, or the international community. Some are just window dressing and others would actually make the bill worse. Spin from the NIO has been a feature throughout the whole process of the legacy bill. This is another real moment of gaslighting.”
Professor Kieran McEvoy from the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast said: “These amendments are not actually designed to help victims get to the truth. If the government wished to facilitate truth recovery it would ensure that the proposed commission had the proper legal powers to conduct investigations to get to the truth.”
CAJ, with input from academic colleagues, has conducted a detailed analysis of the amendments. This analysis was submitted to the Council of Europe (2) Committee of Ministers (CoM), who oversee the UK’s compliance with international human rights obligations flowing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The CoM previously set out a range of areas of the UK legacy bill that would require amendment to meet even minimum legal standards under the ECHR (3). These included reconsidering the proposed ‘conditional immunity’ amnesty scheme, as well as the proposal to end legacy inquests. CAJ’s analysis of the bill has found that the NIO amendments have made no attempt to address any of these areas.
Please direct media enquiries to Robyn Scott, Communications and Equality Coalition Coordinator, on email@example.com or 075 1994 1203. Daniel Holder, CAJ Deputy Director, is available for further comment.
(1) The amendments can be read here in full (HL Bill 37(h) Amendments for Committee).
(2) The Council of Europe is NOT the EU. It is the separate intergovernmental body across Europe set up to promote democracy and human rights following the second world war and oversees the European Court of Human Rights.
(3) In December 2022, the Committee of Ministers stated that the proposed areas of amendment did not allay their specific areas of concern regarding legal compliance with the ECHR.