Legacy of the Past
CAJ works for a just resolution to the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland.
What we focus on
Northern Ireland has experienced more than twenty years of fragile peace – something which is to be celebrated and strongly protected. However, the past still casts a shadow over the present for many people, particularly those who lost loved ones or who were injured or suffered significant trauma during the conflict. Unresolved cases of killing, torture, and serious injury can poison relations in the present, contribute to intergenerational trauma, and grant impunity to the perpetrators. CAJ continues to work to ensure the legacy of the past is dealt with in a human rights compliant manner, which will assist the pursuit of truth and justice by those directly impacted.
The Model Bill Team
CAJ has formed the Model Bill Team with experts from Queen’s University Belfast to find human rights compliant solutions to the legal and political challenges regarding dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. The group has now been working for almost a decade.
When necessary and appropriate, CAJ can pursue strategic legal cases in which we represent victims. This may require working with existing mechanisms, including inquests, Police Ombudsman investigations, and judicial reviews. We will resist any attempts to abolish the rule of law in relation to the NI conflict.
The UK government is in serial breach of its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to properly investigate the past. Judgements given in 2001 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) at Strasbourg remain unimplemented. CAJ regularly makes submissions to the Committee of Ministers on the ‘McKerr group of cases’ concerning the actions of the security forces in the 1980s and 1990s in Northern Ireland.
The Committee of Ministers is the decision-making body of Europe’s leading human rights organisation, the Council of Europe. Its functions include examining the execution of judgments made by the European Court of Human Rights in a series of cases in which states have been found to have committed human rights violations.
Latest UK legacy proposals
The Stormont House Agreement (agreed December 2014) had broad support from NI political parties and the British and Irish governments. It proposed mechanisms for dealing with the legacy of the past that were (overall) human rights compliant. However, in March 2020 the UK government announced an intention to unilaterally abandon the Stormont House Agreement to develop new legacy proposals. In May 2022, the UK government put forward the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.
CAJ is highly critical of the bill which we believe fails to honour the UK’s obligation under the ECHR to carry out proper investigations into deaths and serious injuries that occurred during the NI conflict. You can read our latest statement on the bill here, while a more detailed analysis of the draft legislation – conducted by the Model Bill Team – is available here. The bill has faced widespread opposition within NI, including from victim and survivor groups.
CAJ will continue to advocate for this bill to be scrapped in favour of a return to the already agreed structure proposed within the Stormont House Agreement.